Senior Labour Party figures have used early election trail appearances to set out an anti-establishment general election campaign, apparently hoping to capture some of the success of other populist campaigns.
Swinging into action ahead of the snap general election, which will take place in just 49 days time, Labour has been quick to pitch itself as the party of the working man and has vowed to stand up to the elite, which they characterise as those who enjoy an unfair economic advantage under the current system.
Making this case during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning, shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said that “most people feel that the elite has not been taken on”, adding there had “begun to be a view around that ordinary people are the only ones who need to pay taxes and other people don’t, and it’s about time that stopped”.
Hours later, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his first speech of the election to flesh out the party’s anti-establishment rhetoric, accusing the media and establishment of complaining that, under his leadership, the Labour Party doesn’t “play by the rules: by which they mean their rules”.
Insisting that the party can be victorious in June, he added: “We can’t win, they [the elites] say, because we don’t play their game.
“We don’t fit in their cosy club. We’re not obsessed with the tittle-tattle of Westminster or Brussels. We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers, and we don’t accept that the British people just have to take what they’re given, that they don’t deserve better.”
During the question and answer session that followed his speech, Corbyn highlighted the preferential treatment by HMRC large corporations enjoy, which allowed them to negotiate lower tax rates. Small businesses and individuals could not simply call up the tax man to ask for a lower tax bill, he said, vowing to chase down multi-national corporations for their full share of tax.
In January, a report by Members of Parliament criticised HMRC for fostering a “cosy” relationship with multi-millionaires by providing them with a “personal customer relationship manager” to help manage their tax affairs.
Although polls show the ruling Conservative Party enjoys a double-digit lead over Labour, Corbyn is hoping his anti-establishment image can help his party replicate his personal success in the Labour Party’s leadership election, which he won despite being cast as a rank outsider on odds of 200-1.