Jeremy Corbyn promised inflation-busting five per cent pay rises for public sector workers today in a Left-wing “manifesto for hope” that trumpeted big spending but also increases in taxes and borrowing.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard’s ES Magazine, the Labour leader spoke in the most revealing terms yet about a possible move to 10 Downing Street as prime minister in just over three weeks.
He revealed his wife Laura Alvarez, a passionate campaigner in her own right, is “very interested in the idea” of moving to No 10.
Animal-lover Mr Corbyn also confessed he is worried about how his cat El Gato would fare at the famous address.
Voters currently divide: Conservatives, 44 per cent (up three points since last month), Labour 28 per cent (up four), Liberal Democrat 16 (down four), Brexit Party three per cent (down four) and Green Party three (unchanged), after allowing for seats where the Brexit Party is not standing.
The findings are compelling evidence that the smaller parties are suffering a “big squeeze” as polling day on December 12 draws closer, with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson losing voters as the Labour and Conservative shares rise.
Mr Corbyn opened up in an exclusive interview with Lynn Barber for ES Magazine about his hopes for the general election and afterwards.
He denied there is anti-Semitism in his party, saying he has spent a lifetime opposing racism of all kinds.
“There is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party,” he insisted. He also rejected claims by Jewish media that Jewish people were scared of a Corbyn government, and said: “There is nothing, nothing, nothing in my life that has ever been racist or anti-Semitic in any way.”
Challenged why he was reportedly supportive on social media of a controversial mural depicting caricature Jewish bankers, he agreed that a London council had been right to remove it. He said: “I didn’t approve of the mural. I simply asked the question why is this mural being removed? The following day, the council decided to remove it and I looked at it and said, yes, you’re right.”
Asked if Ms Alvarez, a former banker who now imports fairtrade coffee beans to London, was happy to move to No 10, he said: “She is very interested in the idea!” and laughed.
Mr Corbyn added: “But there’s the question of what happens to the cat, of course.” El Gato, Spanish for “the cat”, is the family pet whose picture graced the Corbyn Christmas card last year.
Asked if he could simply take El Gato with him, Mr Corbyn said: “Yes, but cats tend to be very territorial.”
Asked how Ms Alvarez, who joined him on stage at this year’s Labour conference, felt about the spotlight, he said: “She’s her own person, has her own life to lead. She’s very active, very political and very knowledgeable, does a lot of work on human rights and other issues.”
Award-winning interviewer Ms Barber wrote that Mr Corbyn gave the impression he “doesn’t expect to be moving into No 10 next month and maybe doesn’t even want to”. He told her he leaves his north London home at 8 or 9am, often not returning until 11pm. When they have time to cook, he makes “very nice coddled eggs” and jam.
Mr Corbyn, 70, said he allowed his children to “eat what they like” despite being a vegetarian himself from the age of 20. He said: “I don’t impose my views on others.”
Today’s Ipsos MORI survey is packed with pointers to how Britons are approaching their decision.
It contains evidence that the Conservative support is more robust, with seven in 10 Tories saying they have “definitely” decided, compared with just 54 per cent of Labour backers and only 40 per cent of Lib Dems.
Worryingly for Ms Swinson, whose share has fallen two months running, the Lib Dem vote is the most malleable, with six in 10 people who currently intend to vote for the party saying they “may change their mind”. That compares with 46 per cent of Labour backers and just 28 per cent of Tories.
Britons do not want another hung parliament. Some 72 per cent say it would be bad for the country. Unsurprisingly, Lib Dem backers are divided, with 48 per cent for and 47 against.
About one in seven (14 per cent) intend to vote tactically because their preferred party is a no-hoper locally. More than a fifth (23 per cent) of Lib Dem backers are tactical voters.
Brexit is the biggest issue with voters when they are asked, unprompted, to say what the most important election issue is. Some 63 per cent named the EU departure, followed by the NHS on 41 per cent and 21 per cent for education. Online polling, where voters are prompted with a list of issues, has found the NHS and Brexit vying for top spot.
Gideon Skinner, of Ipsos MORI said: “The public are telling us that they care more about the outcome of this election than previous ones, and yet four in 10 say they might change their minds — also more than in 2017. The Conservatives have most reason to be pleased ... But there is clearly potential for this to change.” Labour’s manifesto was launched in Birmingham after public borrowing figures showed that the deficit swelled from £8.9 billion to £11.2 billion in October.
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,228 adults across GB by telephone, November 15-19. Data are weighted. Details from www.ipsos-mori.com