With less than 48 hours before polls open for the General Election, Jeremy Corbyn spoke exclusively live on Facebook to The Big Issue about some of the most pressing political issues facing the UK.
The Labour Party leader was interviewed by Big Issue editor Paul McNamee, with the Q&A being live-streamed by UNILAD, allowing viewers the opportunity to submit their questions directly during the 30 minute interview.
Ten things we learned in the interview with Jeremy Corbyn…
1. Tackling the housing crisis is one of the first things Corbyn plans to do if he takes the keys to Number 10
After picking his ministers, and presumably ensuring his cat El Gato is nice and settled (more on him later), Corbyn intends to get started in Downing Street by setting in train “a whole strategy to deal with the social injustices in Britain – in housing, health, education and in levels of poverty that exists across the whole country. As MP for an inner city area that’s been dealing with housing issues all my life, I have a passion to deal with the housing crisis. I’m very keen that we are focused as a government on dealing with poverty and injustice and inequality. It’s such a waste of resources and it leads many people to lead unfulfilled lives.”
I’m very keen that we are focused as a government on dealing with poverty and injustice and inequality
2. He wants to help strengthen private tenants’ rights and ensure they get a fairer deal
As part of his commitment to dealing with housing issues, Corbyn describes how he’ll help ensure private tenants do not continue to get so squeezed, particularly in inner city areas. “First of all, much longer tenancies,” he says. “Secondly, the pegging of rents to retail price index rises rather than house price inflation rises. Also, much tougher on the conditions and the rights of tenants. If you or I were to buy a fridge freezer we’d have lots of consumer rights. Rent a flat, what have you got? Actually very, very limited. And the idea that you can negotiate between the tenant and the landlord is not really a fair balance of forces.”
3. Corbyn wants to encourage better teaching of basic life skills like money management in schools
“I think we need to see good education on things like financial management and understanding how you go about exercising your rights in society. I was talking to a young person, in their early 20s, and they said nobody ever taught them how to open a bank account, how to manage their money or anything else. And they were struggling because of that. It’s quite simple but I think it should be there.”
4. We’re no closer to knowing whether or not Corbyn would use nuclear weapons if it came down to it…
“What I want to do is promote peace and disarmament around the world,” he responds when asked if he’d ever considering launching Trident. “I don’t want to get into this debate about people using weapons – surely we need to get into a debate about people not using weapons. Anyone using a nuclear weapon will destroy a significant part of our planet and create a disaster all around the world. Surely the function of government, particularly those that possess nuclear weapons, is to make sure we’re never put in a position where anyone would even contemplate using them.”
The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.
5. There’s no chance, at all, under any circumstances of a second referendum on Brexit under a Labour government…
“I think we have to accept the result of the referendum we had last year,” Corbyn insists. “It’s up to us to deal with that and negotiate with the European Union. That’s the hand we’ve been played.”
Surely the function of a government is to make sure we’re never put in a position where anyone would contemplate using nuclear weapons
6. Corbyn’s cat El Gato is keeping his cards close to his fur regarding potential relations with Larry the Downing Street cat…
“I’ve been asking El Gato about this and I’ve been getting mixed messages. Will he get on with other cats? He’s formed an alliance with a stray that’s come to out house, so they get along fine. But they’re also having extremely bad relations with two other cats that have appeared.”
7. Corbyn seems very relaxed with less than 48 hours to go before the biggest day of his political life
Leaning back with his shirt collar unbuttoned, clutching a Big Issue Call For Change mug, Corbyn seems remarkably relaxed for a man whose political vision is about to be either endorsed or rebuffed by the British electorate in under two days. He even begins by more or less revealing (with slightly weird specificity) where his house his – exactly 196 metres away from The Big Issue’s offices on Seven Sisters Road, apparently. If you’re planning on dropping past for a cuppa, bear in mind he might not still live there past Friday…
8. He’s young at heart
Sixty-eight-year-old, Arsenal-supporting Corbyn sidesteps a tricky question about whether calls for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger to step down to give someone younger a go, are somehow analogous with his own position within the Labour Party. He replies: “I’ve got youth on my side”.
9. He gives a shout-out to the #grime4corbyn massive (sort of)
“Noel Gallagher or Stormzy?” Corbyn is asked during some quickfire questions, and he repays his supporters in the grime community – who have given rise to the #grime4corbyn movement – by going straight for Stormzy. Considering the chart-topping rapper has proclaimed, “My man, Jeremy! I dig what he says,” it’s the least Corbyn can do.
10. Corbyn’s a big fan of The Big Issue
Taking the opportunity to turn the tables at the end of his grilling, Corbyn asks Paul McNamee about The Big Issue’s vision for the future, giving the magazine’s Editor a chance to talk about the growth of the organisation. “I think it’s wonderful in what it’s achieved,” says Corbyn of The Big Issue. “I remember when it was founded. Well done to you and well done in your work.”
Although Prime Minister Theresa May could not do a separate Q&A, she has written exclusively in this week’s Big Issue, committing herself to a prevention strategy.
“There is only one way that we are ever going to address these enduring social divisions in the long term – by putting prevention at the heart of our approach,” says May.
“If we continue to focus on the symptoms or immediate consequences of issues like homelessness, we will fail,” she continues. “We must instead understand the complex issues that contribute to people becoming homeless in the first place – including domestic abuse, mental illness, problem debt and housing insecurity – and tackle them early to prevent people from suffering further and becoming harder to help.”
Along with the PM, all the other major party leaders – Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood – have committed themselves to The Big Issue manifesto, which puts prevention at the heart of social justice.