Labour manifesto will promise to fight '˜unwanted' indyref2

Jeremy Corbyn will recommit Labour to opposing an 'unwanted and unnecessary' second independence referendum when he launches his party's general election manifesto today.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses a crowd in Leeds. Picture: SWNS
Jeremy Corbyn addresses a crowd in Leeds. Picture: SWNS

Mr Corbyn will pledge that Labour will “campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK” in a bit to hang on to unionist voters fleeing the party for the Conservatives.

But senior Tories claimed voters across the UK still doubted Mr Corbyn’s commitment to keeping the UK together, and feared a pact between the SNP and Labour.

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Mr Corbyn has been on the defensive over his support for the Union since saying in an interview that a second referendum in Scotland would be “absolutely fine”. Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, told The Scotsman that voters in England still raised the issue of Scotland and the SNP on the doorstep, despite polls suggesting Labour won’t be able to secure power even with the support of the Nationalists.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses a crowd in Leeds. Picture: SWNS

“Jeremy Corbyn seems to have different views in some of his answers on whether he thinks there should be a second referendum or not,” Mr McLoughlin said. “We’re very clear that there shouldn’t be.

“We know that the SNP continually vote with the Labour Party,” he added. “We know that Nicola Sturgeon would prop up a Labour government, she’s been fairly open about that.”

Heading into the manifesto launch polls put Labour as much as 20 points behind the Conservatives, despite a slight improvement in the party’s rating.

SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson said the election was about protecting Scotland from an “unopposed” Tory government and claimed Labour were “completely incapable of standing up to the Tories and a million miles away from forming a government”.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses a crowd in Leeds. Picture: SWNS

Mr Corbyn will promise a “radical and responsible” plan for the country and insist that the Tories are “still the nasty party”.

Pitching to voters who are feeling the squeeze on their incomes from rising inflation and low wage growth, the Labour leader will say: “For the last seven years, our people have lived through the opposite – a Britain run for the rich, the elite and the vested interests.

“They have benefitted from tax cuts and bumper salaries while millions have struggled and been held back.

“Whatever your age or situation, people are under pressure, struggling to make ends meet. Our manifesto is for you.”

Many of the manifesto pledges have already been revealed after a leak of the full draft document last week. It is understood that only minor changes were made with the final version was signed off by party leaders last week.

They include bringing railways and the Royal Mail back into public ownership, creating publicly-owned energy companies, capping the retirement age at 67, and expanding public spending on the NHS, infrastructure and welfare.

Corporation tax would rise and financial services companies would be charged a “Robin Hood tax”, while individuals earning more than £80,000 are expected to be brought into the highest tax band.

And Labour would follow Scotland in axing university tuition fees for students in England.

Mr Corbyn will say: “This is a programme of hope. The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: fear.

“The record proves one thing: The Tories are still the nasty party. The party of prejudice, the party of the rich, the party of the tight-fisted and the mean-spirited.”

The leaked draft of the Labour manifesto did not include a target for reducing immigration, and the Labour leader has previously left the door open to the possibility of retaining free movement of people between the UK and EU after Brexit.

In an interview last night, Mr Corbyn said he accepted that free movement would end when the UK leaves the EU, and committed to introducing a “fair” immigration system.

“I’m not going to put any figures on it,” he said when asked about immigration. “This is now the third general election [Theresa May] has promised figures none of which she’s come anywhere near achieving.”

Last night Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Voters can reject a second referendum and deeper Tory cuts with one vote for Labour. Voting Tory doesn’t send Nicola Sturgeon a message; it sends Theresa May back to No 10.”