Jeremy Corbyn says Theresa May insecure and sliding into bunker mentality
But the Labour leader failed to directly answer a question about whether defeat would constitute a bad performance for him and the party.
Theresa May is slipping into a “presidential bunker mentality” because she is an insecure leader who wants to feel stronger, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The Labour leader contrasted his belief in “empowering others to make up their minds and come on board when they are ready” with the Prime Minister’s focus on “sound bites” and squeezing dissent.
But he failed to directly answer a question about whether defeat for Labour, who are still lagging behind in opinion polls, would constitute a bad performance for him and the party.
In his most personal speech of the campaign so far, Mr Corbyn drew attention to his activism against the South African apartheid regime and in support of Nelson Mandela in the 1980s when the Tory government was refusing to impose sanctions on the regime.
He highlighted his maiden House of Commons speech in 1983, when he criticised Tory cuts to public services, saying it was a “tragedy” that he could give a similar speech today and it would hold true.
Mr Corbyn said the years of Tony Blair’s premiership showed what can go wrong if leaders go unchallenged because his Labour government “bought into Conservative ideas” about the economy that left Britain with no defence against the global financial crisis.
Addressing an audience of supporters in east London, Mr Corbyn said he recognised similar traits in Mrs May: “It taught me that if leaders go unchallenged, they can make some of the most damaging mistakes.
“And if party leaders put themselves ahead of serving the people, they stop listening and even put our country at risk.
“Barely nine months into Theresa May’s premiership, there are clear warning signs that she and her closest advisers are slipping into that presidential bunker mentality.
“Whereas it is the job of leadership to hold open the space for dissent, new thinking and fit-for-purpose policy.
“So while it might not be the stuff of soundbites, I have always believed in standing firm and empowering others to make up their minds and come on board when they are ready.
“It is the mind-set that gets community centres and nurseries built, and increasingly defends them from closure.
“It is the mind-set that negotiates hard for better conditions in the workplace. It is the mind-set that serves the many, not the few.”
Asked whether anything other than victory for Labour and him becoming prime minister would constitute a bad performance, amid speculation that he may attempt to continue as party leader in the event of a defeat, Mr Corbyn said: “I’m going all over the country, and you know what? – the printed papers say one thing but the mood on the street tells me something very, very different.
“There’s a positive energy and a positive anger out there.”
He added: “Watch this space. On June 8 there’s going to be some very interesting stories for you to report.”