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'The Establishment have no idea how to challenge our message'

With less than four weeks till polling day, Labour Party chairman IAN LAVERY speaks to the Morning Star on how the election is shaping up

MORNING STAR: How would you compare the parties’ campaigns so far?

IAN LAVERY: The Tory Party campaign is looking shambolic. Boris Johnson gets booed out of Doncaster, is forced to abandon a bakery visit in Glastonbury due to protests and had kids locked in a room in Stapleford during a school visit for “security reasons.”

Remember Johnson has never been elected by the people of this country. He was chosen by 90,000-odd Conservatives, mostly over 55, mostly men, mostly from the south of England. He thinks he was born to rule but the reception he's getting shows him getting torn to shreds in our communities.

That's because our country is in crisis, we’ve just seen stats showing we have the worst A&E waiting times since records began, the NHS is at breaking point. We’ve done a transport survey in my area and it’s shocking how bad the buses are. 

People can’t get in or out of villages. There are places connected by two buses a day, the first too late to meet connections that would get you into work, the other too early to get you home if you’re in employment. Old people are isolated, their villages virtually cut off. 

Labour’s campaign has got off to a better start because we’re looking at those problems. We want to ensure integrated, publicly owned public transport so people have access to amenities, facilities, work. People should not be isolated because there isn't profit in a route for a private company.

And Jeremy [Corbyn’s] reception shows it, he’s well received because he listens to people. In two weeks since the election was announced, we've had 8-9,000 new recruits to the Labour Party, we've had £1.1 million in donations from individuals, averaging £26 a donation.

People are excited. It’s pissing down with rain, snow, sleet, but we have armies of canvassers out there. We’re up for this.

MS:  But the polls still show a significant Tory lead?

IL: This election is not looking too different from 2017. On April 20 2017, polls had the Tories on 50 per cent and Labour on 25, and we nearly closed that gap by polling day. Now polls are showing Tory leads of under 10 percentage points, and though the Tories will try to make it all about Brexit, like in 2017 when we knock on doors we find people want to talk about schools, the NHS, transport.

MS: But Brexit is a big problem surely – what do you make of the Brexit Party's decision not to contest Tory seats, even those occupied by Remain supporters, while it is standing against longstanding Labour supporters of leaving the EU like Dennis Skinner?

IL: The Brexit Party needs scrutinising. Many of its supporters are decent people and there are lots of people in the north, in the East and West Midlands who feel betrayed and identify with the Leave Means Leave message.

But this is not an accountable political party, it’s a private company, and 3,500 people paid £100 each to apply to be parliamentary candidates – then Nigel Farage turns round and says actually we're not standing in Tory-held seats. He’s said they’re not getting that money back. That’s £350,000! It needs to be investigated, it looks like political fraud.

Farage has rolled back on every demand till he’s basically a Tory member. People voted Brexit because of horrendous suffering in held-back communities, not to empower a hard-right Tory government associated with Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. I think we can explain to people that the hard-right Brexit Johnson would deliver is not what they were voting for.

Of course Brexit is a concern, but we have a vision of Britain’s future after 2019, we’re a transformative party. Look at John McDonnell’s programme of investment, £150 billion for the north to restructure public services. We’re going to move power from the corridors of Westminster to the north, establish government departments in the north, because it’s a fact that per capita investment in the south-east outstrips that elsewhere by a big margin. 

Communities that have been neglected and despised since the days of Thatcher will benefit from Labour’s green industrial revolution. We’ll change the face of the north.

MS: But will Labour find it easy to get its message across, when the media is largely set against it and we even have reports of foreign interference? Donald Trump has endorsed Johnson, and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on record saying the US would work to prevent a Corbyn government.

IL: Foreign interference is very concerning and we see the way he has interfered, calling for a Farage-Johnson pact and that happening – it’s not a coincidence. The media must take a big responsibility for the peddling of fake news against Labour. But people don’t like negative campaigning and that’s all they have. Labour are fighting a positive campaign, we’re pushing out fantastic policies day after day, and all the Tories and the Lib Dems can do is launch personal attacks on Jeremy.

The Establishment is startled by our ambition, they have no idea how to challenge it. So they hammer Jeremy, John McDonnell and Labour. But I say, bring it on!

MS: Foreign interference isn’t the only problem Labour faces. What do you make of the Royal Court of Justice ruling against postal workers who voted for strike action? Will the labour movement face institutional opposition?

IL: This just shows that if you think you can win a political battle by trusting High Court judges you’re very mistaken. High Court judges have never been on the side of working people. 

This isn't the first time judges have acted against trade union action like this since the Tory Trade Union Act but it’s the biggest. And it’s despicable. Dave Ward and the CWU members deserve the wholehearted support of our movement and our communities and they’re going to get it. 

And Labour will get rid of the Trade Union Act within 100 days of forming a government. We also need to bring balloting into the 21st century, this putting a cross on a piece of paper in your own home and having to post it privately – this is 2019, not 1919, there are secure technologies we can use for electronic balloting that would reduce the ridiculous number of hoops unions like the CWU have to jump through to deliver for working people. 

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