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Corbyn won’t save people from food banks, warns Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson

Leading Tory helps with canvassing in bid to boost Conservative election campaign

04 May, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Gavin Williamson in Kilburn yesterday

THE Conservative chief whip in Downing Street answered every question in an interview with the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday) with a mention of Jeremy Corbyn.

Gavin Williamson repeatedly namechecked the Labour Party leader as we asked him about the Conservatives’ chance of gaining a seat in Hampstead and Kilburn at next month’s general election, the fallout from the Brexit vote – and even the growing use of food banks by the poor in north London.

His answers follow a second round of leaflets from the Conservative campaign using a picture of Mr Corbyn and reminding residents that Labour candidate Tulip Siddiq initially nominated him at the first internal leadership campaign.

The “Get Corbyn” strategy was on display again when Mr Williamson arrived at the Kilburn High Road to help candidate Claire-Louise Leyland’s campaign to end the party’s 25-year electoral hex in Hampstead. Not since 1992 have the Conservatives had an MP in this constituency or its equivalent, but Ms Leyland, the leader of the Tories on Camden Council, has been priced up as the favourite among bookmakers this time.

Gavin Williamson meets Claire-Louise Leyland

Mr Williamson, promoted to the cabinet by prime minister Theresa May last October, was asked whether he felt comfortable leafleting in a Labour ward – and one where residents had largely opposed the Brexit being negotiated by the Prime Minister. “People like to pigeon-hole people in one way or another but what you’ve got to do is look for practical solutions to the situation in terms of exiting the European Union – and I think you’ve got to look at the people who will be trying to achieve that,” he said. “Is Jeremy Corbyn going to be the one who is going to stand up and get the best for Britain or is Theresa May?”

He went on to mention Mr Corbyn again when we asked him whether the 52 to 48 per cent vote split at the referendum, which large numbers did not take part in, really was a cast-iron indication of the “will of the British people”. Mr Williamson said: “When you ask people to cast a vote you are bound by that referendum result, that’s kind of how it works. What is important is that we get the best result for Britain and that’s what the Prime Minister is absolutely committed to doing. I don’t believe that Jeremy Corbyn is up to getting a good deal for Britain.”

When the interview turned to the use of food banks during a time of austerity spending on public services, again Mr Corbyn was mentioned. “The best way to get people away from using food banks or being dependent on the welfare state is about creating jobs, creating prosperity, creating growth in the economy,” Mr Williamson said. “Actually no one wants to see anybody using a food bank. We want people to be able to have a job and be able to provide for their family – that can only be done in a growing economy and I don’t think the economy is ready for a Jeremy Corbyn-esque socialism.” Mr Corbyn was mentioned a further four times in other answers.

Conservatives activists grab photos of Mr Williamson in Kilburn High Road

Ms Siddiq has rebelled against Mr Corbyn on several issues including Brexit, but also the HS2 rail link. She was in the thick of canvassing this week and faced further interviews as the national press descended on Hampstead and Kilburn.

Quizzed during a hailstorm by the Financial Times, she said: “You can’t ignore Jeremy Corbyn. He is the leader of the Labour Party, but, at the end of the day, if people want to talk about Jeremy, I’ll bring it up, but if you go around canvassing all morning like I have done, what people bring up actually is the cuts to the local schools, they bring up cuts to the National Health Service, they bring up that they are worried about High Speed Rail 2, they are worried about Brexit Britain, that’s what they are worried about on the doorstep and that’s what I’ll be fighting this election on.”

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