British election campaign kicks off on no-Brexit day
October 31, 2019 07:50 PM NPT
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves to supporters at a launch event for the Labour party's general election campaign in London, Britain October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
LONDON, Oct 31: On the day Britain was supposed to have left the European Union, voters instead faced the start of an election campaign, with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledging to overthrow a “rigged system” he said was run by billionaires and tax-dodgers.
After failing to deliver Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the Dec. 12 election to break what he cast as a political paralysis that had thwarted Britain’s departure and undermined confidence in the economy.
Opinion polls suggest the election is Johnson’s to lose. His Conservative Party is leading Labour by 15 to 17 percentage points, according to IpsosMORI and YouGov. Yet the overshadowing issue of Brexit, which has divided both major parties and their voters, could confound conventional calculations.
While Brexit frames the election, with Labour pledging to hold a second referendum on it, it is being fought by two of the most unconventional British politicians of recent years who offer starkly different visions for the world’s fifth-largest economy.
In his first major speech of the campaign, Corbyn said the election was a once-in-a-generation chance to overthrow what he cast as a corrupt elite which profited by exploiting workers, lying to the public and polluting the environment.
“Together, we can pull down a corrupt system and build a fairer country that cares for all,” Corbyn, a 70-year-old veteran socialist campaigner, said at a speech in London.
“Even if the rivers freeze over, we’re going out to bring about real change for the many, not the few,” Corbyn said.
Corbyn named prominent billionaires such as landowner Hugh Grosvenor, Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe, hedge fund manager Crispin Odey and U.S. media tycoon Rupert Murdoch as representatives of Britain’s “rigged system”.
He proposed nationalisation of rail, mail and water services and higher taxes on the bankers who have made London the pre-eminent international financial capital.
The first December election in Britain since 1923 will be one of the hardest to call in years. Brexit has variously fatigued, enthused and enraged swathes of voters while eroding loyalties to the two major parties.