Jeremy Corbyn makes bold anti-Brexit call – but supporters derail the narrative

Written by David Singleton on 2 June 2016 in Diary
Diary

As Corbynites boo top journalist, Labour MP warns that party events could soon resemble Donald Trump rallies

Labour’s leader has made arguably his strongest intervention yet in the debate over leaving the European Union, with a warning that a “Tory Brexit” would be disastrous for most people in Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn is known to be privately relaxed about the prospect of leaving the European Union if Labour is in power. But he is less relaxed about Brexit combined with a Tory government.

Speaking in London, the Labour leader warned that Brexit under the Conservatives could result in a deregulatory free-for-all.

"Several Leave supporters have stated clearly they want to leave Europe to water down workers’ rights. To rip up the protections that protect work-life balance, that prevent discrimination and prevent exploitation and injustice," said Corbyn.

"That is why we say, the threat to the British people is not the European Union, it is a Conservative Government here in Britain, seeking to undermine the good things we have achieved in Europe and resisting changes that would benefit the ordinary people of Britain.

"A vote to Leave means a Conservative Government would then be in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit. Everything they have done as a Government so far means we could not rely on them to protect the workplace rights that millions rely on.

"A Tory Brexit negotiation would be a disaster for the majority of people in Britain."

The speech comes amid concerns in the Remain camp that Labour voters are not sufficiently motivated to turn out to vote on June 23.

As Corbyn cannot convincingly pretend to be a paid-up Europhile in the mould of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, the argument about Brexit undermining worker's rights appears to be his best bet for firing up his own side. But the Labour leader's bold comments risked being drowned out in the subsequent media coverage as a handful of supporters booed and hissed the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

Corbyn did not react for several seconds as the BBC political editor prepared to ask her question, but then put out his hand to quieten the crowd.

As Kuenssberg’s treatment was widely ridiculed by fellow journalists on social media, Labour MPs also expressed their disgust – with one even warning that the party’s events could soon resemble Donald Trump rallies.

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said on Twitter that the party should "not allow" the abuse of reporters.

Speaking to PoliticsHome later, the backbencher added: "I think the Labour party needs to hold a mirror up to itself and ask if we really want our events to resemble Trump rallies where journalists are booed and hissed at for doing their job.

“We're meant to be a political party providing effective opposition and an alternative government, not a cult."

Shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer was also critical, telling the Huffington Post: "It was a good speech, marred by the appalling hissing of the media. We should be doing nothing that's detrimental to the media doing their job."

 

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