Jeremy Corbyn urges Scots to reject ‘vicious’ Tories

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Jeremy Corbyn has pleaded with Scots to reject the “vicious” Tories in the forthcoming general election - which he said was a choice between the “people and the powerful”.

The Labour leader insisted he was fighting to win the June 8 election, pledging his party would offer an “economic and political alternative” to Theresa May’s Conservatives.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the STUC conference in Aviemore. Picture: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the STUC conference in Aviemore. Picture: PA

While the stakes were “high” for Britain, he said the choice facing the country “could not be clearer”.

Mr Corbyn used a visit to Scotland to make clear only his party or the Tories could form a government, with his speech in Aviemore in the Highlands focused on attacking Mrs May’s party.

Addressing the Scottish Trades Union Congress on his first visit of the campaign north of the border, he stressed Labour “are standing for the many and not the few”.

As a result of that, he pledged: “One of the very first things we will do when forming our Labour government will be to repeal the Tory Trade Union Act, giving working people the rights to collectively organise and make their lives better, safer and more content.”

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Among other measures, the controversial legislation introduced by David Cameron’s government brought in a threshold for workers voting in strike ballots for action to be legal.

Mr Corbyn went on: “While the timing of the election is unexpected, the choice is very, very clear and the stakes are very, very high.

“Let no-one be in any doubt: we are in this election to win it and we will fight for every seat in every corner of this islands.

“The dividing lines in this election could not be clearer from the outset - it is the Conservative Party, the party of privilege and the richest, versus the Labour Party, the party that is standing up for working people to improve the lives of all.

“That is the real choice.

“Only us or the Tories can form a government and I implore people in Scotland to fight for the party of progress and not the vicious Tory party, who alongside their previous coalition partners the Lib Dems unleashed an unprecedented attack on the working people in this country.”

The Labour leader continued: “The choice facing this country in this election is clear - it’s the people versus the powerful.

“Labour will challenge the rigged system that is holding our country back.

“In this election, Labour will offer hope to the nurse, the teacher, the small trader, the carer, the builder, the office worker, the bus driver, the factory worker, the farm worker, in any situation.

“We will provide the change and the transformative policy programme that puts power and opportunity in people’s hands.

“We will fight this election offering a positive vision for our country, we will present to the British people an economic and political alternative, and a promise that we will make our country work for the many and not the few.”

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Mr Corbyn said Scots “are facing a crucial choice in this election”, adding the “Tories are trying to use Brexit to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven run in the interests of the powerful”.

He insisted: “Labour will negotiate a Brexit that will build on the gains won for workers, consumers and the environment in the European Union. We will put jobs, living standards and human rights first.

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“Friends, this is a general election, it’s not a referendum, and only Labour can form a government and offer an alternative that will transform the lives of people in Scotland.

“The truth is that the Tories and the SNP are obsessed with their power struggles against Brussels and Westminster when the energy should be used to change and transform our economy to ensure that no-one and no community is left behind.”

His speech came just after an opinion poll in Scotland put support for Labour at 13%, compared to 33% for the Tories and 44% for Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.

Labour currently has just one MP in Scotland following the 2015 general election when an SNP tsunami saw the party win all but three of the 59 seats up for grabs.

Suggestions of a “progressive alliance” involving Labour and the SNP, aimed at ousting the Conservatives from Downing Street, have been dismissed by both parties.

Mr Corbyn said: “The only real progressive alliance is the Labour and trade union movement working together as it’s always been and, so far as I’m concerned, always will be.

“That’s why Labour Is campaigning to win in every seat across the whole country. The deal we will do with the electorate is to be the government for the many, not the few.”

He said Britain under the Conservatives was becoming more unjust, more unfair and more unequal, with health inequality and increasing numbers of children living in poverty.

To help tackle this, he said Labour would bring in a “real living wage” of £10 an hour, which would benefit 500,000 Scots, and would also protect pensioners’ incomes by legislating to keep the triple lock on state pensions - something the Tories have so far failed to commit to.

Mr Corbyn also promised to ban zero-hours contracts, bring in four new public holidays, set up a Scottish National Bank and make corporations publish the entirety of their tax returns.

A Labour government under Mr Corbyn would also carry out an inquiry into the practice of blacklisting and into the so-called ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in the miners’ strike, where striking workers clashed with the police.

In addition, the Scottish Government would be urged to set up its own inquiry into the actions of the police in Scotland during the dispute.

He said: “Only Labour will focus on the kind of country we need after Brexit.

“In the coming weeks, we’re going to lay out more of our policies that are designed to unlock opportunities for every single person in this country.

“We’ll focus on giving people real control over their own lives and make sure that everybody reaps a just reward for the work they do.

“We will no longer allow those at the top to leech off those who bust their guts on zero-hours contracts and are forced to make sacrifices to pay their mortgage or their rent.

“Instead of the country’s wealth being hidden in tax havens, we will put it in the hands of the people of Britain because they are the ones who earned it in the first place.

“In this election, Labour will lead the movement to make that change. We will build a new economy worthy of the 21st-century and build a country for the many, not the few.”