Jeremy Corbyn visiting Norwich today as Labour targets city seat

PUBLISHED: 12:36 07 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 07 September 2019

Jeremy Corbyn visits Norwich
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019

Jeremy Corbyn visits Norwich Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

Archant 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has stepped up his party’s campaign for the expected general election with a visit to Norfolk today.

Jeremy Corbyn visits Norwich
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019Jeremy Corbyn visits Norwich Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

Labour leader Mr Corbyn has addressed party activists in the Norwich North constituency, as the party continues to prepare what seems to be an inevitable snap poll later this year.

The timing sends a clear message that the party sees the seat, currently held by Conservative MP Chloe Smith, as a key target.

Ms Smith, who has been MP for Norwich North since 2009 and recently gave birth to her second child, saw her majority cut to just 507 votes in 2017 - down from 4,463 just two years earlier.

Mr Corbyn arrived at Sprowston Methodist Church at the start of a Norwich North "Mass Mobilisation Day."

Mr Corbyn said: "To win power to need to win seats like Norwich North."

He described Boris Johnson depicting him as as a chicken as "purile, ridiculous politics."

Karen Davis, Labour's candidate in Norwich North, welcomed activists and there is training on campaigning before supporters do door-to-door canvassing during the day.

In an address to local activists, a Labour spokesman said: "Boris Johnson could call an election at any time and many suspect we'll have a General Election this Autumn, one way or the other.

"Join us at our mass mobilisation day so we're ready to beat the Tories in Norwich North!

"We lost Norwich North by just 507 votes at the last General Election and we know the Tories are going to throw everything they have (including a lot of money) at holding onto the seat.

"We need to have the best possible campaign to win the seat and that means everyone chipping in to do their bit. And what's great is there is always a job for everyone."

Earlier this week, Mr Corbyn made it clear he will not support the notion of a general election until the threat of a no deal Brexit is ruled out.

It will see the leader of the opposition making his second visit to Norwich in the space of a year, last coming to the city in October.

During his last visit, Mr Corbyn attended a children's centre to discuss Norfolk County Council's controversial decision to close a number of them.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn is fit enough to be prime minister well into his 70s if Labour wins the next general election, his closest ally has predicted.

There have been questions over the Labour leader's health after civil servants briefed in June that he was not "physically or mentally" fit to lead the country.

Mr Corbyn called the civil servant comments, briefed to The Times and since investigated, a "farrago of nonsense" and the party said the 70-year-old ran and exercised every week, although confirmed he is receiving treatment for muscle weakness in his right-eye.

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With an autumn general election looming, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has looked to allay any fears the public might have and predicted that his close ally is fit enough to last a five-year term and beyond in Downing Street.

"That's for him to decide but I can't see any reason why not - he's perfectly fit, stamina of a young man," said the Hayes and Harlington MP in an interview with the Financial Times.

If Labour wins a majority in any looming snap poll, the Islington North MP would become the oldest prime minister in more than 160 years.

The oldest person to serve as PM was William Ewart Gladstone who was 84 when he left office.

Mr McDonnell told the national newspaper that, under Mr Corbyn's leadership, Labour was preparing to be even more radical than Clement Attlee's post-war administration that established the NHS.

"We all admire what Attlee did ...but I think we will go beyond it," he told the FT.

Mr Corbyn's right-hand man added: "People want change. Change is coming; as simple as that.

"I want a government that intervenes and that is going to intervene on a large scale."

In preparation for taking over at the Treasury, Mr McDonnell's team have been readying a host of policies since the publication of 2017's manifesto.

"I've always said the left needs to be ready for government," said the MP of more than two decades. "'Be ready tomorrow, because things can happen.' That time has come."

The self-confessed Marxist plans to ban bankers' bonuses, raise corporation tax and nationalise the railways as part of an interventionist government.

Yet, despite being painted as dangerous by successive Tory leaders, Mr McDonnell said private sector bosses were starting to move towards Labour due to the Government's handling of Brexit.

"We've got business leaders coming to us looking for stability, which they're not getting from the Tories," he said. "It's enhanced our relationship in that sense."

And there are suggestions that Mr McDonnell is tapering his more left-wing announcements to ensure policies do not put off voters plucking for Labour at the next poll.

Earlier this year, Mr McDonnell threatened to delist stock market companies that did not meet strict environmental criteria but now he plays the suggestion down.

"I think rather than delist there's other mechanisms we can look out for how to tackle it," he said.

His utterances on supporting a four-day week also grabbed headlines but he suggests Labour will look to introduce flexible hours rather than force a three-day weekend upon businesses.

"For some people a four-day week is ridiculous because they're desperate to get the hours just to survive at the moment," he added.

"But there's another group of people working all the hours God sends and it impacts on their family lives."

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