It’s hard to go a day without hearing about Brexit, but Jeremy Corbyn delivered a message of hope and unity to audiences at today’s (04/09/17) Creative Showcase.
During a relaxed talk with Lush co-founder Mark Constantine, the Labour leader was firm about the importance of migration and diversity in both the past and for the future of the UK.
Corbyn said: “In my constituency, 15 per cent of the electorate are EU nationals, and they make a huge contribution to our economy. If we had not had migration in the past, then our health service would be in a terrible state. Our education system and science-based systems would be the same.”
He continued: “We rely very heavily on people who choose to make their home here. I want to create a government that sees its place with everyone in the world.”
Corbyn was frank about the realities of Brexit, telling the audience that moving forward meant accepting the democratic conclusion the referendum came to. However, he was keen to show that all was not lost. He emphasised his party’s belief that the UK must remain in the single market, and not become a “tax haven off the coast of Europe.”
The party leader instead offered a vision of Britain in which workers were paid fairly and treated equally, no matter their background, nationality or religion. He was clear that a Labour government would offer all EU nationals and their families freedom to remain in the UK, and fiercely opposed any lapse in human rights in UK law.
Corbyn highlighted the many social movements that have pushed for change over the centuries - drawing examples from the suffragettes and gay rights movements.
He said: “Every single piece of social advance and legislation can be traced back to popular movements in history. Look at history through the eyes of the poorest people, who often dreamt of what was thought to be impossible at the time. Fifty, one hundred, maybe two hundred years later, it becomes the norm. That’s what people can do.”
Corbyn then stressed the importance of those long-fought-for freedoms, and took a firm stand on a topic that’s set to be discussed in parliament next week.
He said: “I would oppose any attempt to water down our Human Rights Act. To me that is completely essential. On regulation, we’ve said as a party that we will guarantee, and enhance if we can, all the rights of work that have come through EU regulation.”
But Brexit was not the only topic on the agenda. The veteran vegetarian discussed animal rights, blood sports and their detrimental impact on the ecosystem.
Corbyn admitted he has always been passionate about animals, and that his first ever speech at school was on foxhunting. He blasted the cuts that have prevented police from following up on wildlife crime, suggesting that a Labour government would do more to protect wildlife.
He said: “The police have had their resources cut for dealing with wildlife crime. I think that is wrong because wildlife crime is not only unbelievably brutal to the animal killed, it is also damaging to our ecosystem.”
He continued: “I was in Scotland last weekend to try and see a golden eagle. They are beautiful birds, as are peregrine falcons and hen harriers. Too many of them are found dead on shooting estates where they ought to be able to roam freely.”
Corbyn closed the talk to chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn,” praising Lush staff for the campaigning work and support they do.
He said: “Thank you all. Thanks for what you do, particularly with voter registration, and help with homeless people, and so much else, because what we need is a society where we genuinely take responsibility for each other.”
Watch Mark Constantine In Conversation With Jeremy Corbyn in full here