Corbyn launches final election push to deny Tories a majority

Heather Stewart and Kate Proctor
Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Jeremy Corbyn will promise Britain’s jaded voters that a Labour government would put “money in your pocket”, as his party makes a last-ditch push to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority at Thursday’s general election.

Amid concerns that Labour has overpromised with a blizzard of announcements during the six-week campaign, Corbyn will focus on the NHS and voters’ finances in the final crucial days of campaigning.

At a series of stops in Wales on Sunday, the Labour leader highlighted policies including increasing the national living wage to £10 an hour, expanding free childcare, cutting household bills and providing free personal care for the over-65s.

Labour is trying to restore party discipline in the final few days, after what has at times appeared to be a policy free-for-all. One candidate defending a Labour-held marginal complained the party’s messaging during the six-week campaign had resembled “an Advent calendar” with a different policy treat for every day.

Labour has also retreated from the gung-ho approach of the early days of the campaign, when it poured resources into Tory-held seats in the hope of winning an outright majority.

Corbyn’s message that the NHS risks being sold off to US corporations as part of a post-Brexit trade deal does appear to have hit home, with activists and candidates saying it is being raised spontaneously by voters on doorsteps and in phone calls.

Corbyn will be returning to that theme too, as the campaign reaches its climax.

John McDonnell will echo Corbyn’s “money in your pocket” message in a speech in London on Monday in which he will pledge to end austerity in his first budget.

The shadow chancellor will set out a Labour government’s priorities in its first 100 days in office – including boosting spending on public services, and kickstarting a green industrial revolution.

“In too many parts of the country, we have been wasting people’s potential. That’s down to successive governments sitting back and leaving the fate of whole communities at the mercy of market forces,” the shadow chancellor will say.

“Our ‘green industrial revolution’ will deliver the changes we need to avert climate catastrophe. And it will put British industry back on the map, bringing prosperity to every part of our country. It will give every community something to be proud of.”

While Labour has set out the sweeping changes to Britain’s economy it would seek to make if it wins Thursday’s general election, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have stuck relentlessly to their “get Brexit done” slogan.

Prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet colleagues staff the lines at a Conservative party phone bank. Photograph: WPA pool/Getty Images

The prime minister will reprise that message yet again on Monday as he begins a tour of Labour-held seats the Tories hope to seize to secure a majority.

But fresh doubt was cast on Johnson’s claim that his deal is “oven-ready” by news of a leaked government document seen by the Financial Times.

Civil servants from the Department for Exiting the EU raised concerns in the document about whether the new customs system that will be necessary to enact the Northern Ireland protocol could be ready in time for the end of 2020.

The protocol replaced the controversial “backstop” in the withdrawal agreement and in effect requires a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.

The document, circulated last week, said, “delivery of the required infrastructure, associated systems, and staffing to implement the requirements of the protocol by December 2020 represents a major strategic, political and operational challenge.” The government said it did not comment on leaks.

Johnson will crisscross the country in the final three days of campaigning with a focus on traditional Labour heartlands, making stops in north Wales, West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, East Anglia and the south-west.

At a rally in Sunderland, which voted leave early on the night of the referendum, he will say: “It’s now been 1,264 days since Sunderland’s roar was heard on the night of 23 June 2016.

Since then, he will claim, “parliament has bent every rule and broken every convention as it has delayed, diluted and denied Brexit. Remain MPs who said at the last election they would deliver Brexit shamefully did the exact opposite when they got to Westminster.”

Johnson himself voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal twice. But, he will insist: “The Labour party has let you down most of all. Under Jeremy Corbyn, they promised to honour the result of the referendum – before voting against Brexit every chance they had. They won their seats on a false prospectus and then stuck two fingers up to the public ... It’s been the great betrayal.”

With the Brexit party increasingly pessimistic about its prospects of taking any seats – Nigel Farage said on Sunday he only had hopes for “a handful” – Johnson hopes to win in areas like Sunderland by uniting the leave vote.

Labour insiders said their canvassing data in many leave areas has improved in recent weeks as the debate has widened beyond Brexit to the state of public services and the future of the health service.

But the party is braced for a string of defeats in the Midlands, with West Bromwich East, where Tom Watson stood aside at the start of the campaign, Birmingham Northfields, and Dudley North among the constituencies believed to be vulnerable.

However they are still hopeful of making a few gains, including Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford, where Johnson was out campaigning on Sunday in a move that suggests the Tories are worried that the former Tory leader could lose to Faiza Shaheen.

Resources have been shifted modestly towards defending Labour-held seats in the past 10 days; but some candidates with wafer-thin majorities complain that the effort has been too little, too late.

McDonnell will use his speech on Monday to set out fresh details of Labour’s nationalisation plans, including creating “people’s assemblies” as part of the oversight for the renationalised utilities.

“When Labour puts money in your pockets, we will also put power back in your hands. You rely on and work in these services, you know them. But you’ve been ripped off and shut out from how they’re run, to protect vested interests and profits for the wealthy. When we win power it will be to give it to you,” he will say.

With national polls suggesting the Tories are on course to secure a majority, anti-Brexit groups are urging voters to vote tactically, “on an industrial scale”.

Hugo Dixon, deputy chair of People’s Vote, is urging the public to abandon long-held party allegiances in favour of the candidates best placed to stop Boris Johnson from getting a majority.

He said the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, needed to take the lead by getting behind the Labour candidate in Johnson’s seat in Uxbridge to start a gargantuan push to encourage tactical voting.

Dixon said: “At this very late stage there still is a chance if there is industrial-scale tactical voting. By focusing on the most high-profile single seat [Uxbridge] it could create a chain reaction. Someone has to make the first move. The best chance at this stage is if Swinson got behind Labour in Uxbridge. In return Labour could support the Lib Dems in Dominic Raab’s seat in Esher. We need something seismic to happen to supercharge it.”

Dixon admitted that a Johnson government would mean an effective end to any hopes of a second referendum, which he said would be a tragedy.