JEREMY Corbyn has put Labour activists on ‘permanent notice’ amid rumours in Westminster of another general election. He said he would ‘absolutely welcome’ a chance to take on Prime Minister Theresa May at the ballot box.
Speaking on a visit to Northern Ireland, Corbyn said: ‘I would absolutely welcome an election – likely or not. ‘We will see what happens over the next few weeks. ‘We are absolutely ready for it, with a message we would challenge austerity. ‘Labour activists are from me permanently on notice to be active and yes of course we are saying “be ready”. ‘We’ve selected a lot of candidates already in key marginal seats that we hope to win and I’m obviously in touch with all of them.’
• Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday urged PM May to take a tougher line on Brexit.
The MP, who chairs an influential group of Brexiteer Tory MPs, the European Research Group, said remaining in some form of customs union with the EU for years after Brexit, which some have suggested will be the outcome of the talks with Brussels, would not be delivering Brexit. He did not believe May should walk away from Brexit negotiations, he added, but should instead threaten not to pay the £40bn ‘divorce bill’ agreed with the EU in December.
He told Andrew Marr: ‘We should say quite clearly, “if we don’t get the trade deal we want, you don’t get the money”. That’s a very strong negotiating position.’ He denied trying to tell the prime minister what to do, saying he was ‘very respectful’ of her position. Asked if he would back the PM even if she returned from Brussels with a deal he did not like, he said: ‘I will back the prime minister on delivering on the promises she made in the Conservative manifesto and in her various speeches.’
Meanwhile, leading Tory Iain Duncan Smith has reacted angrily to news that the Electoral Commission has set aside a budget of £829,000 to pay for its ‘activities relating to a European Parliamentary election in 2019’. Duncan Smith said: ‘It raises the question, are they planning for us not leaving the European Union? Are they ignoring what Theresa May has said and deliberately still believing that we won’t have left the EU?’