Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a rare national TV interview why he is critical of the European Union and why “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle.”
Corbyn told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on ITV’s programme “Good Morning Britain” that:
“I voted ‘Remain’ but I have made and continue to make criticisms of the EU; the way it is trying to impose a free market across Europe, the way it is trying to impose privatisation on some services.
“Migrant workers come to this country, work incredibly hard, pay taxes, receive actually less in benefits than the rest of the community — without them we wouldn’t have much of a health service or social care system. So lets be realistic about it.
“We’ve got an ageing population, those workers are necessary in this country. My point is that employers, particularly the construction industry others as well, recruit overseas in order to bring in the whole group of workers to destroy existing wages and working conditions, so Mike Ashley can bring in workers in Sports Direct to pay grotesquely low wages and appalling work conditions.”
The long interview on ITV is a rare broadcast interview:
When the presenters asked where he has been for the last year, considering Britain has endured some of the worst strikes in recent history, a crisis in the National Health Service (NHS), the nation voted for Brexit, and there are rumours of rows in government.
“The best thing comes to those who wait,” he said jokingly.
“Well, I’m here now to have that discussion. Over the past year I have been doing an awful lot of campaigning all over the country, I’ve spoken at hundreds of events all over Britain, a vast amount of media — particularly local media,” said Corbyn.
“And I had a Labour leadership campaign — you may remember that as well,” he added, with a smile.
His comments come ahead of his speech that he will deliver in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire later on Tuesday. The speech is seen to reboot Labour’s strategy.
This includes Corbyn abandoning his long-held commitment to open borders and signal that he is willing to allow Theresa May’s government to end the free movement of people once Brexit talks begin with the EU.
When ITV asked about why he is being “rebooted,” he said “well, you just described it as a ‘reboot’ and ask why I need to be rebooted, I don’t think I do. I am well shod as it is, thank you.”
Other key highlights from the interview include:
- Corbyn didn’t outright say “yes” when asked if he really wants to be prime minister — But he did say “I want to be in government so we can conquer the housing crisis in Britain. I want to be in government so young people get a real chance in life.”
- Acknowledgement that some by-election wins does not equate to winning an election — “Now that doesn’t win a general election — that wins the Labour leadership and sets the party in a frame of mind as you like. We now have to get the message out there.”
- He doesn’t believe his new comments on immigration is a “sea change” — “It is not a sea change at all. The point I am making in the speech today is that migrant workers are recruited to undercut and undermine work conditions in this country. Employers are tearing up industrial agreements in order to bring in often quite skilled people to cut them in the construction industry.”
Here are the key exerpts from the ITV interview:
Piers Morgan: “Lets put some damning facts to you. 44% of all those who supported Labour at the last election, would not vote for you, if the general election happened tomorrow. You could lose 90 MPs if [Prime Minister] Theresa May called a snap election.
“Not withstanding that, you have a remarkably high membership of your party. You’re hugely popular with a group of people but hugely unpopular with a wider electorate. How are you as a part of this reboot, which is clearly what it is, how are you going to join these dots and make yourself electable?”
Jeremy Corbyn: “Well, we had the Labour leadership election in the summer, which wasn’t one that we sought but that was because of a number of Labour MPs decided to have a leadership election. Fine — we had it, we recruited a large number of people to the party, we had a resounding result, 60% voted for me and we have a larger membership as a result.
“Now that doesn’t win a general election — that wins the Labour leadership and sets the party in a frame of mind as you like. We now have to get the message out there; ‘does Britain have to be so grotesquely unequal as it is?,’ ‘do we have to have an NHS that is falling apart at the seams due to under funding?,’ ‘do we have to have so many people in work, living in poverty?,’ as we have at the present time — the answer is ‘no.’ Therefore we put forward a credible economic alternative.”
“I frame this later today in my speech in Peterborough, about how we deal with Brexit negotiations, above all how we rebuild and invest in the British economy, so we don’t move into bargain basement Britain on the edge of Europe.”
Susanna Reid: “The by-elections you’ve defended, you’ve won.”
JC: “Quite convincingly.”
SR: “… there has also been some catastrophic results for you. In the Witney by-election in October, you saw your share of the votes slip, Richmond by-election, you came third — the LibDems [Liberal Democrats] took this away from the Tories [Conservatives], and the Sleaford by-election got a result of slipping into fourth position. Now in order for you to make any progress, you need to make gains beyond the seats you can hold onto.
JC: “We have been making gains in some council elections, by-elections — I realise that’s not a general election, but nevertheless …
SR: “That’s the argument UKIP make and they only have one MP”
JC: “I’m not always familiar with the spin UKIP put on it.”
SR: “It’s the exact same spin you’re putting on it.”
JC: “Oh, really” slightly smiling. “Well the point has to be …”
JC: “The point is, there are places where we have gained seats and gained support and councils we have gained control of, it is important to put that in the realm.
“Yes, of course I wished those by-election results would have been considerably better and the Labour-held seats we were defending did incredibly well. In fact, in three of the four, we had swings to Labour in those by-elections. We obviously have a huge electoral challenge — that I am up for and that’s why we want to set out a clear, credible social justice and economic message.”
PM: “Do you actually want to be prime minister? There is a theory …”
JC: “Where do you get these theories?”
MORGAN: “There is a theory that you’re a serial protester, objector, and being the Labour leader in opposition but you don’t really want to be top guy because you’d have to make decisions of running the country which doesn’t play into the protestor narrative.”
JC: “I want to be in government so we can conquer the housing crisis in Britain. I want to be in government so young people get a real chance in life. I want to be in government, so we don’t become a country that’s one of the most unequal in Britain, if not in the OECD countries, one that gives a real chance to everybody.”
PM: “I feel your chest getting pumped up and the gorrilla coming out of you, where has this guy been for the last year? You’ve been on local media but the Labour party need you …”
JC: “Are you jealous I have been on local media?”
PM: “No, but the polls show you have a weird disconnect. You’re popular on a local level, you’re popular with your membership, but nationally most people believe you be unelectable. Do you genuinely believe you can win a general election.”
JC: “Yes. Absolutely, because we have got this very clear message put forward on opportunities for young people in education, decent quality healthcare, social care and tackle this grotesque housing crisis.”
PM: “You said only a few days ago, that ‘it is very hard to see how you can be part of the Single Market without one of the conditions being the right of free movement of people, there is an issue of a balance of standards, working conditions across Europe.’ A lot of young people that support you, absolutely bought into you being Mr. Remain, Mr. Free Movement etc.
“They wake up today, as part of the reboot, and now you say Labour is ‘not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle.’ Do you accept that this is a massive sea change in your rhetoric about this? Do you think young people are going to think ‘hang on a sec, that’s not the guy we thought we had.'”
JC: “It is not a sea change at all. The point I am making in the speech today is that migrant workers are recruited to undercut and undermine work conditions in this country. Employers are teraring up industrial agreements in order to bring in often quite skilled people to cut them in the construction industry.
“What I said all through the EU referendum campaign was, we had to sign up to all the amendments in the workers directive to stop that kind of exploitation going on. We’re now saying, leaving the EU, there has to be a clear definition to protect the working conditions and wage levels here because some companies, particularly in construction are making a fortune out of getting rid of workers because of one set of workers on one set of paying conditions and bringing in others to undercut them, that creates some awful tensions in those communities.
SR: “Those communities, areas, where you face a threat from UKIP are those areas which voted ‘Leave’ in the referendum, traditionally working class communities, they’re not just worried about immigration because of the pressure on wages or the immigrants themselves who might be suffering, they are worried about the NHS, communities becoming divided and isolated — how are you going to sell your message in areas where you are under threat?”
JC: “Let’s be very clear, if we didn’t have migrant workers across Europe in this country, the NHS would be in an even deeper crisis that it is at the present time.”
SR: “Do you accept that people voted ‘Leave’ because they were against immigration?”
JC: “They voted ‘Leave’ for many reasons, probably including that. But …
PM: “Do you vote ‘Leave’?”
JC: “No of course I voted ‘Remain.’ Why do you ask that?”
PM:“Because there is a conspiracy theory …”
JC: “You follow too many conspiracy theories.”
PM: “I just heard people say you have never been completely unequivocal and that you may have secretly voted ‘Leave’.”
JC: “I voted ‘Remain’ but I have made and continue to make criticisms of the EU; the way it is trying to impose a free market across Europe, the way it is trying to impose privatisation on some services. Can we go back to [the point] of undercutting workers in communities. Migrant workers come to this country, work incredibly hard, pay taxes, receive actually less in benefits than the rest of the community — without them we wouldn’t have much of a health service or social care system. So lets be realistic about it.
“We’ve got an ageing population, those workers are necessary in this country. My point is that, as I said earlier, employers, particularly the construction industry others as well, recruit overseas in order to bring in the whole group of workers to destroy existing wages and working conditions, so Mike Ashley can bring in workers in Sports Direct to pay grotesquely low wages and appalling work conditions.”
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