On Thursday 11th February, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the Frink Exhibition at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre before moving to deliver a speech for the University of Nottingham’s (UoN) Labour Society and general Labour supporters.
After succeeding Ed Miliband and assuming party leadership in September 2015, Corbyn has sought to make his mark on the party’s policies. He pledges to set aside more money for hospitals, doctors and nurses; provide increased support for mental health; continue Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme; and create a foreign policy based on political – not military – solutions.
After his Lakeside visit, UoN media caught up with Corbyn to find out more about why you should vote, his attitude towards mental health provisions, and whether he really has the leadership qualities to be Prime Minister.
We have a shortage of young people who are really engaged in politics and feel like politics is for them. What would you do, if you were elected, to engage young voters?
I want everybody to be engaged in politics, we live in a democracy and a democracy only survives if people want it to and engage with it. I want young people to be engaged so that they don’t have to end up living in bad housing, they don’t end up being short of healthcare, and deeply in debt for trying to study and develop lives for all of us. So my engagement is to say to people “it’s your life. It’s your future. Together we do things, individually is to fail”.
So when building your shadow cabinet, you introduced a minister of mental health and earlier this month you talked about how university staff should be doing more for students. In your opinion do the facilities available really cater to the students and what can we do to do more?
One in four of us are likely to suffer from mental health conditions in our lives and every one of us knows people that have gone through or are going through a crisis. It is the great unsaid and the great unspoken. Too many comedians have made careers over making jokes about people who are going through a crisis, too many of our newspapers use abusive language.
I wanted to do my best to say something different. One of which, is that it is okay to talk about mental health conditions. If it is okay to talk about a broken leg it must be okay to talk about depression. So by appointing a shadow cabinet minister for mental health, Luciana Berger, to do this work – by just doing that it has opened up the whole debate, by just doing that government ministers are being forced to concede the importance of it. It has resulted in the government putting slightly more money into mental health.
“Too many young people, sadly, take their lives when they are in a very deep, dark and desperate place”
The government claims that there is a parity between physical health and mental health – there isn’t. There is a funding crisis in mental health and it does affect all ages but young people in particular go through a hard time. Young people particularly in primary and secondary school find it very hard to talk to their peers about depression they face.
Universities vary enormously between the very good and those that are not so good at giving those facilities, and the ability to have those talking therapies. So Luciana and I are doing a survey of this; we are developing policies on this so that there will be good quality mental health services available for all. Too many young people, sadly, take their lives when they are in a very deep, dark and desperate place. We have to be strong enough as a society to reach out to everybody and strong enough to care to reach out to everybody, and I am absolutely determined that we will change things.
We obtained information under the freedom of information act that stated that 403 non-EU staff at the University are earning under £35,000 a year. Under the new government legislation this would see them deported, what impact do you think this will have – not only on the university but also on national constitutions as well?
I am not happy or in favour of this piece of legislation. I think that people living and working here should be treated the same as anybody else that is living and working here, whether they are British nationals or anybody else. There has to be an equality of approach on this. The idea that you would deport somebody because they are earning under £35,000 a year… which seems to be a very strange figure to be put and not a very fair way of doing things.
“University of all places should be a cross fertilisation of all ideas”
We live in a global environment, we live in a world of travel, and a university of all places should be a cross fertilisation of all ideas, both from this county and other countries, not only in Europe but also the rest of the world. That is how our knowledge develops. Europe didn’t develop everything, China didn’t develop everything, the whole world developed everything. We need to learn from others and respect other cultures, and that is exactly what the University of Nottingham tries to do.
An Ipsos MORI survey conducted on the 28th January 2016 revealed that only 16% of the public believe that labour have the best leaders to deal with the country’s problems, as opposed to 43% of people who have faith in the Tory leadership, how do you respond to this?
I’d respond by saying that I was elected leader of the party and I have elected a shadow cabinet, I have developed policies on the basis of a very different form of politics. I don’t do personal abuse, I don’t do ‘ya boo sucks’ politics, I want democracy to prevail so that people’s views actually work their way through into the political system.
“Since I was even nominated for a candidate as leader, we have had an unrelenting media storm against us”
It is quite hard for the political establishment to understand that and, ever since I was even nominated for a candidate as leader, we have had an unrelenting media storm against us. Yet, we have got through. We have been forced to govern under the back foot and to retreat on working tax credits, on running the Saudi Arabian prison service, and on police cuts.
I think that we are making a huge amount of progress and by 2020 it will be very obvious what our policies are on housing, on manufacturing industries, on education, on health, as well as so many other areas because so many people will have been involved in the making of those policies. It is a different way of doing things, what I am saying is that we live in a democracy let’s use it! If some people take longer to get on board than others, I hope they will speed up.
How do you propose to counter the Tory line that you are an inadmissible threat to national security?
Well what is security? Is security getting involved in the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq? Or is security bending every fibre to bring about a political settlement in Syria which will hopefully bring about a ceasefire and eventually the return of refugees and the reconstruction of that country which has been through such terrible times?
I voted against the bombing of Syria, not because I support ISIL – I absolutely do not – but because I couldn’t see that was a contribution to a peace process just as much as I opposed the Iraq war. Security comes from agreements and getting on with people not from threatening people.
Would you say that you have an all or nothing approach to politics?
Not at all. I have been politically involved all my life and life is involved always in ideas and in compromise, in opposing things, in proposing things, and in supporting things. All or nothing? No. And all or nothing in my life? Absolutely not. I do plenty of other things. Yes I do politics, it’s my job but I also read a lot, I make things, I run an allotment for myself. You have to have a balance in life; 24/7 doesn’t mean that you are producing 24/7.
By Belinda Toor and Tom Watchorn
Image by Tom Watchorn
With thanks to URN and NSTV