Jeremy Corbyn laughs off ‘Islington elite’ tag as he launches campaign at Crouch Hill community centre

Jeremy Corbyn with Diane Abbott and local politicians at the Brickworks Community Centre in Crouch H

Jeremy Corbyn with Diane Abbott and local politicians at the Brickworks Community Centre in Crouch Hill. - Credit: Archant

Jeremy Corbyn laughed off the “ north Islington elite” tag as he launched his 10th election campaign at a Crouch Hill community centre.

The Labour leader gave a comprehensive 45-minute speech in front of a packed room at the new Brickworks building on Monday night.

He reiterated this was the "ending austerity election", and touched on the impact it has had on the community through the rise of foodbanks and the introduction of Universal Credit.

"The price of austerity is not born by George Osborne," he said. "It is not born by those that brought that budget in. It is born day in day out by the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. By those that go into debt just to survive, by those living in overcrowded unsustainable private rented accommodation.

"All of those thing were a political choice made in 2010 by the Tories and Liberal Democrats who said it would pay off the debt and pay off deficit. It's done neither, but it has imposed poverty on many and made a small number of people extremely rich."

Referencing an "extraordinary" question from a journalist at the Labour party campaign launch about how he could lead the party when he comes from the "elite of north Islington", Mr Corbyn said: "I love walking along the Seven Sisters Road, I have many friends around the area - the cafes, the shops. But I don't think anybody would call Seven Sisters Road part of the elite of this country."

He joked it should be renamed "Le Boulevard les Sept Soeur".

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"That should up the property prices very quickly!" he quipped, before declaring how proud he was of the community and its diversity.

He added: "The reality is the majority of people I represent are not well off, the majority of people I'm proud to represent are up against it. Forty per cent of our children, in some areas, are living in poverty."

He said the 2010 austerity budget lives on in the "debts of young people that have been to university, lives on in the way so many older people are denied the social care they need and deserve and so many in middle age go deeply into debt to pay for their kids and older people".

On Brexit, Mr Corbyn said he recognised he represented people who voted strongly to remain, but said people in the north were not "lesser socialists" or "lesser people" for voting just as strongly to leave.

"Their constituency took a different point of view," he said. "I've spent an awful lot of time in an awful lot of discussions with people on motives, why people voted the way they did, and the aspirations behind the votes. I've tried the whole time to bring our party together and our people together and our community together. We cannot go forward without bringing people together."

He said Labour launched its campaign in Battersea Arts Centre in tribute to Battersea North's Shapurji Saklatvala, who in the 1920s became one of the first minority ethnic MPs .

He said: "I want to lead a party that's diverse, that's broad, that's big, and a country that is united and never ever to be divided by racism, by discrimination and all that goes with that.

"Racism only divides. Those that promote racism know that division works.

"You divide the working class by racism, who wins? The powerful, the rich and the Tory party. We are different, we are united and I'm utterly determined we go through this election campaign proud of our diverse country."