Britain “could well be looking towards a general election”, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
As speculation mounts that Labour is preparing to table a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, Corbyn has said his party is “ready to put our case to parliament”.
He also suggested that the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan was being rejected because the Government appears to be “looking in two ways at the same time” - towards America and deregulation and the EU’s higher standards.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the Labour leader also said a re-run of the Brexit referendum could make the manifesto as he would be “bound” by delegates’ vote should they back the idea at the party’s conference in Liverpool this week.
And, after a summer in which Corbyn and his party has been dogged by allegations of anti-semitism, the Labour leader insisted he would “die fighting racism in any form” and hit back at Rabbi Sacks’ comparison of him with Enoch Powell.
Asked about the prospect of a new election soon, he said: “We could be, because this Government doesn’t seem very strong... We could well be looking towards a general election, and - do you know what? - we’re ready for it.
“I don’t think there’s many Tory MPs who want a Labour government, but there’s many Tory MPs that are very, very angry at the way their Government is performing and might feel it is the right time for the country to make a decision on the future.
“We will be putting our case to Parliament and we will see what happens after that. We are absolutely ready for it.”
Asked about a re-run of the EU referendum, Corbyn said: “Let’s see what comes out of conference. Obviously I’m bound by the democracy of our party.”
It is likely there will be a vote on Brexit at the Liverpool conference, but it is not yet known exactly what question would be put to delegates.
“There will be a clear vote in the conference,” said Corbyn. “I don’t know what’s going to come out of all the compositing meetings that are going on,” he said.
He also declined to say which way he would vote in any new in-or-out poll, while pointing out that he backed Remain in the 2016 referendum.
“That’s conjecture as to what the question would be,” he said. “We don’t know what it would be. In the referendum, I wanted to remain and reform the EU.”
I don’t think there’s many Tory MPs want a Labour government, but there’s many Tory MPs that are very, very angry at the way their Government is performing and might feel it is the right time for the country to make a decision on the future. Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn said that May should come to Parliament to make a statement following last week’s EU summit in Salzburg and her defiant response to the rejection of her Chequers proposals.
He told Marr: “She is looking two ways at the same time. (International Trade Secretary) Liam Fox is going off trying to do sweetheart deals with one country or another, all of which involve undermining (standards) and deregulation.
“We want stronger regulation at both ends of any trade agreement.”
Labour would seek “a trade agreement with Europe, with a customs union with Europe so there would be tariff-free trade and no trade border,” said Corbyn.
“I think we can reach an agreement where there is a freedom of trade across the Irish border and across the Irish Sea. There has to be a trade agreement with Europe in order to achieve that.”
Asked directly if he was an anti-semite, Corbyn said: “No, absolutely not. I have spent my whole life fighting racism in any form. I will die fighting racism in any form.”
Marr also put claims by the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that Corbyn’s behaviour over anti-semitism was comparable with that of Enoch Powell, the Labour leader said he found it “quite hurtful and quite offensive”.
He added the claim was “beyond excessive” and insisted that Labour was safe for people of “all faiths and none”.
Responding to the interview, Brandon Lewis, Conservative Party Chairman, said Corbyn would take the Brexit negotiations “back to square one”, adding: “Jeremy Corbyn this morning proved he is not fit to govern our country.”
He added: “As ever, it would be working people that pay the price of a Labour government with more debt, higher taxes and fewer jobs.”