Ian Lavery – 'Remarkable' Corbyn and 'crystal clear' Brexit plan can help Labour win in the West Midlands
Ian Lavery is adamant that Labour can win over the people of the West Midlands at the general election.
The Labour Party chairman firmly believes that a vision he calls "the most radical of any political party in history" will resonate in a region where the Tories will need to make significant gains if they are to get the majority required to return to power.
Labour's "crystal clear" Brexit plan will be key to the party's success, he says, as will Jeremy Corbyn, who he describes as "the most remarkable man I have ever met".
"I disagree that he is disliked," he said, when asked about Mr Corbyn's record low popularity ratings during an interview at the Willenhall office of Walsall North's Labour candidate Gill Ogilvie.
"He has been demonised by the press... by people who have a vested interest in absolutely hammering the leader of the Labour Party.
"It is up to us to get the message across that he is in fact, an incredible man."
Pitching Mr Corbyn as a vote winner may well raise a few eyebrows across the region, particularly among the many Labour candidates who have no mention of him on any of their campaign literature.
"He's like Marmite, you either love him or you hate him," admits Ms Ogilvie, before saying that the Labour leader's name "does not come up much" on the doorstep.
For Mr Lavery, who is one of Mr Corbyn's most enthusiastic cheerleaders, the Labour leader is a major plus in a campaign where the party is taking aim at Britain's wealthy.
He says Labour will put an end to poverty and homelessness by making sure that “those at the very top pay the most” through a set of policies he insists are based on “common sense” rather than Trotsyest ideas.
On a walk around the town he popped in to see local businesses, including Lovebirds Bridal Boutique and Muddy Pig Butchers.
He spoke to them about the struggles of the high street, and insisted that Labour can take back Walsall North, a seat the party held for nearly 40 years until Eddie Hughes won it for the Conservatives in 2017.
“I really cannot understand people in constituencies like this who are undecided,” he said, musing over Labour's chances in the election.
“We have got to ask them, whose side are they on? Are they on the side of the big bankers? The big polluters who are causing so much damage to the world? The tax dodgers?
“Are they on the side of the dodgy landlords? That’s the question we have got to ask people.”
Mr Lavery agreed that Brexit was one of the key issues among voters, particularly in areas such as Walsall North where 74 per cent of people voted to leave the EU.
But he insisted that Mr Corbyn's refusal to state whether or not he would support a Labour Brexit deal was no disadvantage.
"The media continually tries to suggest that we have a confusing message and that Jeremy should come clean," he said.
"The reality is that we have quite a crystal clear policy. The Lib Dems are ignoring the fact that the Leave vote won, they are totally disenfranchising 17.4 million people.
"The Tories have a cliff edge policy where they want a no deal Brexit which will mean each person will lose £2,500 a year. We are offering a great compromise for both Leave and Remain voters."
Mr Lavery, a former National Union of Mineworkers president who has served as the MP for the north east constituency of Wansbeck since 2010, was speaking ahead of today's launch of the Labour election manifesto in Birmingham.
He said Labour's proposals offered "a real chance to change society for the better" by making sure that "people at the very top pay the most".
It is clear he is determined to spend the campaign on the front foot, taking aim at Labour's opponents in a series of fierce attacks.
Asked about Labour's record on anti-Semitism, he said: "I wouldn't want to get into any debate about anti-Semitism, other than to say that it is not acceptable in the Labour Party.
"And I will tell you this, Jeremy Corbyn might be a number of things, but he is not anti-Semitic in any way, shape or form."
In an attack on Britain’s wealthy, he said: "We want real change. We cannot have kids living in poverty. We have all this money but it is all with the rich and the wealthy.
“Why should we have a billionaire in London, when we have a little kid in this constituency with holes in their shoes, that hasn’t got a coat for the winter?
“It’s a rotten society.”
He also took aim at former Labour MP Ian Austin, who quit the party and stood down in Dudley North to endorse the Tories, claiming that a Corbyn-led government would be disastrous for the country.
"For anybody to suggest people should vote for someone with a record like Johnson, quite frankly it amazes me," Mr Lavery said.
"Anybody who says that, you have got to question the very ethics of their politics."
Earlier he had spoken of his hatred of the PM, telling activists: “What a horrible man that individual is.
“I go to bed an hour later every night and I get up an hour earlier every day so I can despise Boris Johnson for longer.”
He said he confident that Labour will win seats across the West Midlands, and that Mr Corbyn will be in Number 10 before Christmas.
Unsurprisingly, it is a view that is not shared by Walsall North’s Conservative candidate Eddie Hughes, who said that all the same, he was “delighted” that Mr Lavery had visited the constituency.
“For the 74 per cent of people here that voted Leave, it is a reminder that a vote for Labour is a vote for a second referendum and a desire to Remain,” he said.
“Only a vote for me and Boris will get Brexit done.”
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