Jeremy Corbyn in Shropshire: Labour leader targets fresh successes in county... with winning Telford seat a top priority
As a young man Jeremy Corbyn planted a red flag on The Wrekin to celebrate an election victory – and now 51 years later the Labour leader is targeting fresh election success in Shropshire.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Shropshire Star, the Labour leader opened up on a number of issues affecting the region and urged the people of the county to back his party in the forthcoming General Election.
Following a tour of the Shropshire Star offices in Ketley, Telford, he pledged to provide funding for education and the health service, while voicing his commitment to retaining tariff-free access to the European market following Brexit.
Mr Corbyn also tackled the issue of Shropshire's hospital reorganisation and said he wanted to see the county retain two A&Es because of the distances involved for the region's residents.
He spoke of the comments made by political opponents regarding hospital staffing problems affecting the county's hospitals and said he wanted to see levels increase.
He also had good news for workers at MoD Donnington.
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Last week the Conservative MP for The Wrekin, Mark Pritchard, warned that a Labour government would put jobs at risk but Mr Corbyn was firm in insisting that workers have nothing to fear if his party wins the General Election.
He admitted that the Telford seat currently held by Tory Lucy Allan is being targeted for a Labour gain in next month's election.
Speaking on the reorganisation of Shropshire's two main hospitals Mr Corbyn said two A&E departments are important given the size of the county, and that he would address the problems faced by the region's hospitals by increasing staffing levels in the NHS.
He said: "I followed the debate very carefully and indeed I remember the campaign to get a hospital built in Telford.
"Telford new town was built without a hospital originally, it only had small hospital or cottage hospitals in the surrounding area.
"A lot of money has gone into it and only three years ago there was a big upgrade. I have followed that debate and what we will do is cancel the STPs and look again at the whole issue.
"From my point of view having two A&E departments is important for the distances involved.
"In the debate in Parliament Daniel Kawczynski and Lucy Allan agreed about this and admitted that the problem is with staff so it seems to me that NHS England is hiding behind something here.
"I want to see staff levels increase so people in Shrewsbury and Telford are able to be safe."
Brexit and immigration
Shropshire, like many counties across the country voted to leave in the EU referendum. Speaking to the people of the county Mr Corbyn said Labour was committed to the referendum result but wanted to ensure tariff-free trade for businesses to protect jobs. He said: "First of all we respect the result of the referendum and are very determined to achieve tariff-free trade access to the EU market.
"This is essential for jobs across the country and people in Telford and Shropshire.
"Secondly when we have left we will then have to develop a migration policy and one that is based on justice and the needs of people, not undercutting with migrant workers."
Only last week Conservative MP for The Wrekin Mark Pritchard said that a Labour government would put jobs in Telford & Wrekin at risk – particularly those in defence at MoD Donnington.
However, Mr Corbyn, who has been criticised over his views on the Trident nuclear weapons system, said defence workers could rest easy that their jobs would not be at risk.
He said: "We are not putting defence jobs at risk. The civilian support system at Donnington goes back a long way and there have obviously been issues over the years but no, it is not under threat. The workers have nothing to worry about from a Labour government."
The Labour leader pulled no punches when it came to the Telford constituency and said the party is focused on overturning the Conservatives' hold of the seat.
He said that his very first election campaign was the 1966 General Election in The Wrekin and that the current situation reminded him of that battle – which ended with a Labour victory.
He said: "We will be doing a lot of campaigning to gain this seat in the General Election and it reminds me of the very first campaign I was involved in in 1966 when we gained the Wrekin seat by 800 votes. Gerard Fowler gained it from the Conservative William Yates.
"I want to see Telford being a Labour gain."
Adult social care
The increasing cost of adult social care is an issue facing councils across the country but particularly Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.
Currently both Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council have warned that the rising costs of providing the care are putting other services under threat.
Both have appealed to the government for greater funding and Mr Corbyn said the voters of Shropshire could be assured that increasing the amount available for adult social care is one of his aims.
He said: "The crisis is appalling, there are millions of people not getting the care they need, and there are many delayed discharges from hospital because they cannot get the care they need. That means other patients cannot come in and elective surgery has to be cancelled.
"We will fund it across the country.
"Essentially there is an economic loss in not funding it because many people, particularly women, have to give up work to care for people in the adult social care system."
How Shropshire shaped my politics
He grew up in Shropshire and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that the county helped shape his political beliefs.
Speaking on a visit to the Shropshire Star offices, Mr Corbyn reflected on how he cut his political teeth in a General Election campaign for The Wrekin in 1966 – and celebrated by planting a red flag on top of The Wrekin itself.
He said: "When we beat the Conservatives in 1966 we were obviously very proud of it, winning The Wrekin, because it had not been Labour since 1955. So we decided we would commemorate it in a special way. I think it was probably my mum's idea. So a whole bunch of us climbed The Wrekin the following May Day and put the red flag on the top."
Mr Corbyn said it had been fun although the flag had caused something of a stir with passers-by. He said: "I think a lot of people walking there that morning assumed it was something to do with live firing."
Mr Corbyn, who lived in a village near Newport as a youngster, attended Adams' Grammar School in the town.
He also joined a number of groups which would help shape his political ideals, also making his first speech during his time in Shropshire.
After leaving school Mr Corbyn worked briefly as a reporter for the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, a sister title to the Shropshire Star.
He said: "I made my first speech at a socialist event in Wellington, at a dinner or something, it was all about us pressing Anthony Greenwood, the minister who came to speak to us about giving us an answer on Telford new town."
Mr Corbyn said he had also been part of a campaign against the 1971 Immigration Act and a member of Shropshire Campaign Against Racism.
He said: "I learned a lot from all that, also I used to deliver Sunday papers around Newport and I remember some of the old people I would meet, the farm workers. I learned a lot from them, their wisdom."
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