An alternative to austerity and a message of hope are the reasons Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believes are behind his party’s recent surge in votes across Sussex.
The MP was in Crawley today to meet party members and activists as part of a national tour of marginal seats - the town’s Conservative MP Henry Smith saw his majority reduced from 6,526 to 2,457 votes at June’s general election.
Labour took Brighton Kemptown from the Tories, came within a whisker of unseating Home Secretary Amber Rudd in Hastings and Rye, bolstered their majority in Hove, and posted a number of impressive second-placed finishes across Sussex.
Meanwhile last week Labour’s Beccy Cooper took the party’s first Worthing Borough Council seat in more than 40 years.
Asked about the reasons for Labour’s recent surge in Sussex, Mr Corbyn said: “The fact we were offering an alternative to austerity politics and economics in Britain, we were offering to invest in rail, housing and education, we are offering some hope to people in our society and that resonance is very strong and that’s why for example we gained seats in two by-elections across the south east in Worthing and in Margate.”
A dispute between unions and Southern bosses over the introduction of driver-only trains has rumbled on since April 2016, leading to misery for Sussex commuters.
Mr Corbyn said a Labour Government would intervene to make sure the services were being run properly, and when the franchise was over they would bring it back into public ownership.
He described how the county’s rail services were ‘very intensively used’ and felt it was crucial capacity on the London to Brighton line was increased.
Labour members packed the Charis Centre where the leader of the opposition was greeted by thunderous applause when he arrived this afternoon (Monday August 7).
He was introduced by Crawley Labour Party member Morgan Flack, who called the visit an ‘absolutely honour’ and described how Crawley ‘is still in campaign mode and we are in it to win it’.
Mr Corbyn told the audience that austerity had seen people out of work or those on average or below average wages ‘pay the price for the banking crisis they did not cause of benefit from’.
He criticised the cap on public sector pay, and underfunding of both the NHS and the country’s schools.
He said: “We need a Government that’s on the side of people, a Government that is prepared to invest in health and education and housing - the vital ingredients of life.”
Mr Corbyn promised if elected to ‘take up the cudgel of Brexit negotiations’ to protect jobs and tariff free trade access to Europe.
On the environment he would be ‘straight on the phone’ to American President Donald Trump over climate change telling him ‘he could not walk away’ from the Paris Agreement.
He voiced his opposition to any privatisation of pre-school provision and the continuation of university tuition fees, spoke of Labour’s support for nationalising the water companies and Royal Mail, and called for a strong manufacturing industry.
Addressing the Southern rail dispute, Mr Corbyn said it was time to ‘stop blaming the rail workers and start blaming the company that runs it’.
He argued that during this year’s election campaign Labour had shown it was a party opposed to ‘muckraking and personal abuse’.
Mr Corbyn added: “I’m determined we will build on the success of the 2017 general election.”