UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn targets privileged in first campaign speech

Election set for December 12 after premier Boris Johnson’s failure to force through Brexit

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in London, Britain October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The leader of Britain’s main opposition party targeted wealthy business leaders and tax dodgers in his first major speech of an election campaign that started in earnest on the day that the UK had been due to leave the European Union.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, criticised vested interests in a “rigged” and “corrupt system” that benefitted individuals such as Mike Ashley, the head of cut price retailer Sports Direct, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The speech comes as prime minister Boris Johnson blamed Mr Corbyn for failing to “get Brexit done” during a series of campaign visits. Mr Johnson's attempt to push through a new “divorce deal” with the European Union last week was blocked by parliament.

Mr Johnson’s response was to call an election in which he hopes to build a majority for his right-of-centre ruling party that would allow him to be able to pass legislation allowing the UK to leave the European Union before January 31 next year.

The election is likely to be fought largely over the issue of Brexit.

Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party will campaign on his pledge promise to leave the EU; Mr Corbyn’s left-wing party will claim that his deal will tear up workers’ rights, while the traditional third party, the Liberal Democrats, want to keep the UK in the European Union.

A poll by London's Evening Standard, edited by former finance minister George Osborne, suggested that the Conservatives had a 17 per cent lead over Labour, boosted by support for Mr Johnson’s handling of Brexit. The Conservatives were on 41 per cent with Labour on 24 and the Lib Dems on 20 per cent.

Mr Corbyn’s opening salvo saw him going after the “tax dodgers, dodgy landlords, bad bosses and big polluters”.

“This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country, take on the vested interests holding people back and ensure that no community is left behind,” he said.

He also took aim at Mr Johnson who had insisted that "do or die" the UK would be leaving the EU before the end of this month.

"Friends, today is the 31st of October... the day that Boris Johnson promised we would leave the EU," he said.

"He also said he would rather be 'dead in a ditch' than delay beyond today, but he has failed, and that failure is his alone."

Mr Johnson’s roster of candidates are likely to be more firmly behind his vision of future relations of Europe after a fractious relationship with senior ministers, including former finance minister Philip Hammond, who repeatedly spoke against the leader’s Brexit plans.

Nearly 60 MPs have said they will not seek to retain their seats in the 650-strong lower house, with a significant number of them moderates and anti-Brexit campaigners from the ruling party. Mr Hammond has said he will consider running as an independent.

The speaker, John Bercow, the controversial figure in charge of parliamentary debates and rules, is also due to chair his last sitting on Friday. The government complained that Mr Bercow favoured anti-Brexit MPs in his rulings.