Labour is ready for a snap general election, Jeremy Corbyn says
Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is ready for a general election if Theresa May calls a snap poll - despite trailing the Conservatives in the opinion polls.
In an interview with The Independent, the Labour leader said the party was in a "very strong, organised position" should she decide to go to the country early.
He said he would order Labour MPs to vote for the repeal of the Fixed-Terms Parliaments Act to enable the Prime Minister to seek a dissolution of Parliament.
"If she calls an election, she calls an election. We're ready for it," Mr Corbyn said.
"We've got more members than we've ever had before, we've paid off all our debts to the party, we don't have any mortgages, we are in a very strong, organised position."
He added: "I personally am slightly sceptical about the Fixed-Term Parliaments Acts anyway ... she has not said she's going to do that but that is what I'm saying is one possibility.
"If there's a vote to dissolve Parliament then obviously we will vote with it."
With Labour trailing the Tories by 17 points according to one recent opinion poll, his comments are likely to be treated with scepticism by some of the party's MPs.
Mr Corbyn admitted recent results in the Richmond Park and the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-elections "weren't that good" but said the party had been doing better in council by-elections.
He refused to be drawn on Labour's prospects in the forthcoming Copeland by-election where it is expected to face a strong challenge from the Conservatives following the resignation of former frontbencher Jamie Reed - a prominent critic of Mr Corbyn.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
He flatly rejected calls from some in the party for Labour to form a "progressive alliance" with the Liberal Democrats - pointing to their record supporting Conservative austerity cuts as part of the coalition government in the last parliament.
Mr Corbyn said: "What's progressive about alliances with a party that spent six years slashing welfare spending in Britain, reorganised the health service and wasted £3 billion in doing it - forgive me, what is the progressive bit with the Liberal Democrats?
"I will work with opposition parties in Parliament to try and defeat this Government, but the idea that the Labour party should throw in its lot with the parties that support austerity Britain I think is not really credible."
A report warned of supporters drifting away from Labour to Ukip and said individual MPs may have to "isolate" themselves from Mr Corbyn in voters' minds to shore up their support.
The paper was obtained by The Guardian, which said it had been drawn up from focus group research by James Morris, a former polling adviser to Ed Miliband, and circulated among a group of "moderate" Labour MPs.
It suggested a "lifeboat strategy" to protect MPs from association with the Labour leader, suggesting they need to work out "how to run locally in a challenging context and isolate from Jeremy without increasing (the) perception of division".
In an indication that Mr Corbyn's messages may be failing to get through, 67% of those questioned for the report said "don't know" when asked what was the main thing Labour and its leader were saying at the moment. Just 16% said Mr Corbyn would make the best prime minister.
Ukip-leaning supporters "have no reason to vote Labour beyond habit and social norm", said the report, according to The Guardian.