London: Jeremy Corbyn criticized what he called the U.K.’s “corrupt system” that favors billionaires over wider society, in a speech kicking off his opposition Labour Party’s campaign to defeat Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the Dec. 12 general election.
“We’re going after the tax dodgers,” Corbyn said in London on Thursday. “We’re going after the dodgy landlords. We’re going after the bad bosses. We’re going after the big polluters. Because we know whose side we’re on.”
He even name-checked prominent businessmen and bankers, including News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Sports Direct International Plc founder Mike Ashley, as well as hedge fund manager Crispin Odey. He reiterated plans to nationalize rail, mail and water companies, and said a Labour government would make private schools pay their taxes in a “fair and proper way.”
Labour’s core message - a pledge to stand with the “many” and not the “privileged few” - echoes themes it used in the 2017 election, when the party confounded the polls to deprive then Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary majority. Trailing again, Corbyn hopes the message will propel him to office this time.
“This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country, take on the vested interests holding people back and ensure that no community is left behind,” Corbyn said. “When Labour wins, the nurse wins, the pensioner wins, the student wins, the office worker wins, the engineer wins.”
Corbyn also said the premier and chancellor of the exchequer, currently Sajid Javid, should be required to publish their tax returns to boost transparency.
Johnson called the general election - Britain’s first in the month of December since 1923 - to break the deadlock in Parliament, which has failed over the past three years to pass a deal to take the U.K. out of the European Union and deliver on the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
In a pooled interview to broadcasters on Thursday, Johnson said he’ll push through his Brexit deal immediately if he secures a majority in the election.
“We’ve got an oven-ready deal,” the prime minister said. “Put it in the microwave as soon as we get back after the election.”
Johnson has frequently said it’s politicians who have thwarted the will of the people on Brexit - anticipating his Tories can capitalize on that message.
But Corbyn moved immediately to try to seize back a line of attack Labour typically claims for itself.
“The Prime Minister wants you to believe that we’re having this election because Brexit is being blocked by an establishment elite,” Corbyn said. “People aren’t fooled so easily. They know the Conservatives are the establishment elite.”
He repeated Labour’s policy to negotiate a deal with the EU that protects jobs and the economy, and to pitch the deal against Remain in another referendum.
“We’ll go into office and immediately open negotiations with the EU on a sensible relationship with Europe,” Corbyn said.