Jeremy Corbyn said his party’s Peterborough by-election campaign is focused on “core Labour values”, with environmental protection and ending austerity key issues.
The constituency has historically been a close-run battle between Labour and the Conservatives, but Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is attempting to gain a foothold in Westminster and is the bookmakers’ favourite.
Mr Corbyn, addressing activists in Peterborough on Saturday, said: “This election campaign is about asserting those core Labour values.
“A Labour government will end austerity, a Labour government will invest in the future and a Labour government will deal with the crucial issue that we all face, that of climate change and the environment.”
He said the local council could start by addressing fly tipping.
Labour’s by-election candidate is Unite activist Lisa Forbes.
Mr Corbyn continued: “When we fight this election, yes of course we fight it on the local issues, but we also fight it on what we the Labour Party want to, and are determined to, achieve for all of the young people in this country.
“A national education service, education as a right not as a commodity from cradle to grave, impose an increase in corporate taxation in order to end student debt because of excessive levels of student fees.
“In this campaign we support Lisa who will be a wonderful MP. We take that core Labour message out to all the doors of bringing our society and our community together, to protect jobs… to ensure we maintain that trading relationship with our nearest neighbours in Europe and to ensure that we get a Labour government at the end of this.”
Labour members from across the country have come to Peterborough to campaign for @LisaForbes_ - Labour's brilliant candidate in the Peterborough by-election.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 1, 2019
Lisa has lived in Peterborough for 30 years and is dedicated to improving the lives of all the people in this community. pic.twitter.com/dOFx1VXMCp
He said that winning the by-election would be a “good step towards getting a general election and a Labour government”.
The Peterborough by-election was called after MP Fiona Onasanya was forced out by a recall petition after she was jailed for lying about a speeding offence.
Onasanya was elected as a Labour MP but was later suspended from the party after being sentenced.
As he left the rally, Mr Corbyn refused to answer questions about senior Labour official Pete Willsman, who was suspended on Friday over alleged anti-Semitic comments caught on tape.
Mr Corbyn told journalists: “It’s good of you to come here and report on the by-election.”
A party supporter said as she walked past: “The anti-Semitism stuff – it’s all made up.”
Speaking later in Leeds, Mr Corbyn said: “The Tory party might wish to debate which of their 12 candidates is capable of winning a majority of whatever their membership now is.
“Let them get on with it. I’m not very interested. I’m more interested in the alternative that we will put forward.”
He was speaking at Leeds University Student Union at the end of the first Labour Roots event in the city.
He was cheered by the many students in the packed hall when he repeated Labour’s pledge to end university fees and “the horrors of the debt that goes with it”.
Mr Corbyn said: “When Theresa May told us, when she stood on the steps of Downing Street, she was there to tackle the burning injustices, well, they’re still there.
“They’re not tackled and they’ll never be tackled by a Tory party in hock to the rich, the powerful against the wishes of the rest of the population.
“We are serious about the Paris climate change accord. And we say to [US president] Donald Trump, who’s coming this week: stand by, don’t walk away from that climate change accord.
“It’s our future. It’s the young people’s future you’re dicing with.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also spoke at the event, saying: “It is so important to combat the far-right. And by saying far-right, I include the Brexit Party.
“They breed division, fear and anger. They pull communities apart. And the Labour Party’s mission is to bring communities together.”