By Kent Barker, Political Editor HIP

Some of those lined up outside St Mary in The Castle waiting for Jeremy Corbyn were wondering why he was in Hastings and not Downing Street. Not as Prime Minister, yet, but having taken up Mrs May’s offer of cross party Brexit talks. After an effusive welcome from Labour supporters in the great circular auditorium the opposition leader explained. The offer of talks were, he argued, simply a stunt. ‘Take no deal off the table now, please, Prime Minister’ he demanded politely, then he would consider face to face discussions. If she continue to refuse then he would not get involved with ‘phony talks designed to run down the clock’. The mood of the meeting seemed to support his stance, and his reiteration of Labour’s three ‘red’ line pre-conditions for a deal: remain in the customs union, retain access to the free market and keep pace with EU rights at work and consumer protection.

Members of the national and local press were struggling to find anything new in what Mr Corbyn had to say. If the government failed to bring forward a new deal satisfying Labour’s conditions then the opposition would ‘come back again’ with another motion of no confidence and the Prime Minister should go back to the people for a new mandate by calling a general election. If they couldn’t get the general election then the public vote option is ‘still on the table’. Was this perhaps just the slightest hint of less reluctance for a people’s vote than he given before? The audience certainly hoped so, leaving him in little doubt that a second referendum was these people’s choice. One other areas Corbyn was on safer ground, or to mix a metaphor, walking on water. Opposition to benefit and public services cuts got enthusiastic ovations, as did his closing pledge that a Labour government would introduce ‘free education – from Cradle to grave as a human right’.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: Owen Price


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