LONDON — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has for the first time said he would instruct his MPs to back an early general election as the party is in a
“very strong, organised position” to fight one.
In an interview with The Independent, Corbyn said Labour would support legislation that called for a snap election if Theresa May decides to put one to parliament.
“If she calls an election, she calls an election. We’re ready for it,” the Labour leader said.
“We’ve got more members than we’ve ever had before, we’ve paid off all our debts to the party, we don’t have any mortgages, we are in a very strong, organised position.”
Corbyn was optimistic about how Labour would perform in an early election, despite the party trailing the Tories by big margins in recent opinion polls. Labour was seven points behind the Conservatives according to the most recent survey, published by Opinium. However, Labour needs to have a lead of at least 12.5% if it wants to form a majority government at the next election, according to analysis by academic Matthew Goodwin published on Friday.
Labour’s downward electoral spiral
The party’s confidence has also been knocked by how it has performed in recent by-elections. In Richmond, the party suffered its worse by-election result in a London constituency in over fifty years, while in Sleaford and North Hykeham it slipped down to fourth place having come second at the 2015 general election.
The Labour leader refused to accept that the party is on a downward electoral spiral, though.
“While the results in Richmond and Sleaford and North Hykeham weren’t that good, what wasn’t reported on the same day was that we gained overall control of the Telford and Wrekin council by winning a ward that has never, ever been Labour before. We also had an excellent result in Lancaster in a council by-election there,” he said.
He added: “While I’m not pleased with the results in Richmond or in Sleaford, I just point out that there are other areas where we’ve had some very good results.”
The MP for Islington North was asked about the prospect of forming a “progressive alliance” with other parties of the left in order to try and keep the Tories out of power. This would involve collaborating with the Liberal Democrats and Greens and in some cases standing aside in certain seats to allow these parties to optimise their vote share. Nick Clegg told Business Insider earlier this month that it is difficult to envisage how this arrangement would work.
Corbyn agrees.”What’s progressive about alliances with a party [the Liberal Democrats] that spent six years slashing welfare spending in Britain, reorganised the health service and wasted £3 billion in doing it — forgive me, what is the progressive bit with the Liberal Democrats?
“I will work with opposition parties in Parliament to try and defeat this Government, but the idea that the Labour party should throw in its lot with the parties that support austerity Britain I think is not really credible.”
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