Jeremy Corbyn today urges Mirror readers to back Labour in tomorrow’s election to end a decade of “cruel” austerity and offer Britain hope for the future.
The Labour leader said he “feels the pain” of millions of people trying to get by and is determined to make the country a fairer place.
And he made a heartfelt promise to protect the NHS after our stories about desperate families struggling to get treatment from the struggling health service.
In his final interview before polling day, Mr Corbyn revealed what put the fire in his belly as he appealed to undecided voters to back him to be the next Prime Minister.
“I feel the pain of the people I represent, the pain of trying to bring up children in a small overcrowded flat, and wanting them to do well and wanting them to achieve at school,” he said.
“I think of the people saying they've got three children with quite wide age gap sharing a bedroom, one wants to play music, one wants to do their homework, one wants to play with lego on the floor.
“They just end up fighting for space, then those children don't achieve what they could at school and their whole life path is damaged because we, the community as a whole, did not provide the housing they need. It's that sort of thing that drives me to change things in our society.”
Speaking to the Mirror on Labour's battlebus in the North West of England, he added: “Life can be cruel to many people and I want us to have a much fairer society.”
Mr Corbyn revealed that his first act on becoming PM would be to allocate emergency funding for more hostel places to help those sleeping on the streets.
“I'll do something urgently about the rough-sleeping crisis around the country as a symbol of what we are determined to do to end the injustice of the housing crisis,” he said.
Labour will also prioritise shoring up the NHS in its first weeks in power – after the Mirror published a series of devastating stories about children struggling to get treatment.
“It is an utter disgrace in a civilized world, we can do better. It indicates just how desperate the situation is in our health service,” he said.
But he backed away from personally attacking Boris Johnson's handling of the situation.
“I would rather go out there and be positive about what we want to achieve. People can make their own judgements on Boris Johnson when confronted with a picture of a child on the floor of the hospital, compared with the approach that we would take.”
He praised his shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth as “absolutely brilliant” despite a leaked conversation in which he predicted they would lose the election as a result of Brexit and Mr Corbyn's leadership.
The Labour leader revealed Mr Ashworth had called him up straight away and was “mortified” and “very upset” that his “banter” had been published.
“He's working flat out for a Labour government. I know that and I think he's been absolutely brilliant on health and I think we just move on,” Mr Corbyn said.
But he acknowledged candidates' concerns that Labour's Brexit policy was coming up regularly on the doorstep in Leave seats.
He admitted that many people were “fed up” with Brexit but that any deal needed to be one that protected people’s livelihoods and security.
“I'm sure many people are fed up and bored with it,” he said.
“I've had as my bottom line that I would prevent a no deal Brexit and would prevent a trade deal with Donald Trump that would sell off our public services.”
He admitted it was going to be “difficult” to resolve the issue once and for all but he wanted to try to represent both the 48% and 52% as it was the “sensible, grown-up” approach.
“I recognise that it's going to be difficult. I don't want to represent just the 48% or the 52%, I want to represent the people as a whole”.
A Labour government would spend three months negotiating a Leave deal with the EU that wouldn't destroy industry and then put it – and Remain – to a public confirmatory vote in six months.
Its negotiating team would include Brexiteer Labour MPs as well as Remainer ones. “It will be people who have differing views,” he said.
But he admitted his decision not to campaign for either side was “not easy”.
He added: “What else could we as a party do to represent people who voted both ways in the referendum? Anything else would be even harder.”
And he warned that under Boris Johnson the risk of a damaging no deal Brexit at the end of 2020 was very high.
Mr Corbyn, who has been accused of not being tough enough on security, insisted the first job of any government was to “keep the country safe and secure”.
He talked passionately about the welfare of armed forces personnel and cited their pride in missions including rescuing refugees, dealing with the Ebola crisis and UN peacekeeping.
“Our armed services are there, yes to protect us against attack, but also there to deal with the insecurities that come from poverty, from environmental disaster and from refugee flows.”
Asked whether he could envisage a scenario where he would be prepared to deploy troops for security reasons, he replied: “I would hope we didn't have to, but of course you have to be prepared to defend society”.
Throughout his leadership, Mr Corbyn has faced allegations of not dealing with anti-semitism in party ranks swiftly or tough enough.
“Antisemitism is utterly evil. Obviously we'll continue to clamp down on it,” he said.
He suggested that Labour could adopt recommendations from the ongoing Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry in full.
“They're only looking at processes and so yes… We'd look at it of course. I would imagine we would implement them but they've not made any suggestions yet.”
Mr Corbyn was last week accused of being unpatriotic for not watching the Queen's Christmas message – but clarified that he had watched news bulletins in the morning.
“When her Majesty finally gets to make the speech we all know what's in it because we've seen the trails on it. There was a bit of miscommunication between the interviewer and myself on that. I think we're now cool.”
He and wife Laura Alvarez, who was sitting next to him on the battle bus, would celebrate Christmas together “hopefully in No 10, that's the idea”.
He claimed that “we both” do the cooking but was interrupted by his wife who added: “Mainly me”.
What was he getting her for Christmas? “A present.” They laughed. “Something nice and something surprising”.
But would he have the time to go shopping? “I make time. If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
Mr Corbyn claimed he was able to cope with the scale of personal abuse he sometimes faced from the media – but that he worried about his family.
“It gets to people around me more than it does me. It is very stressful for family and friends who get very angry on my behalf and feel there's been a lot of unfairness.
“I have been active in politics all of my life and I do it because I believe in it. You get personal abuse. I'm not replying to it, I'm not getting into the gutter with anybody.”
He did not criticise Labour candidates for choosing not to put his name or picture on leaflets.
“It's up to them what they put on their literature. Nothing bothers me. The only thing that bothers me is winning the election. It's not a Presidential election, it's a parliamentary election and I'm proud to be Leader of the party.”
Mr Corbyn ruled out endorsing tactical voting but admitted he was “looking forward” to seeing Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of universal credit, lose his seat to his Labour rival.
“I'm not in favour of tactical voting. I want the Labour message to be there clearly all across the country.”
He has ruled out forming a coalition in the event of a hung Parliament and asked whether he would stand down if he lost insisted: “I don't intend to lose”.
But after shadow chancellor John McDonnell appealed for the next Labour leader to be a woman, Mr Corbyn yesterday admitted there was a “fair case” for that to happen.
He also hopes that in the future there would be two Labour deputies – a man and a woman.
Mr Corbyn revealed the first thing he would do on walking through the famous black door of No 10 would be to check out the coffee machine – so he would be equipped to work late into the night.
“I'd check the coffee machine and have a cuppa. It's the first thing I did when I was elected as an MP. The office was totally bare and all we had literally was a table, two chairs and my old typewriter. So I came back with a coffee percolator and they said what's that for, and I said we're certainly going to need it.”
He predicted his diplomatic skills would be needed to make sure his cat, El Gato, could live happily alongside Larry the Downing Street cat.
“Cats are very territorial and there may be some issues there, so it may end up with me having to use my diplomatic skills,” he laughed.
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