Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn traded blows over which one is “the elite” as day one of the pre-election campaign kicked off.
The two leaders sought to burnish their credentials on separate trips and position themselves as the true voice of “the people”.
Rousing activists in the marginal Battersea seat Labour won from the Tories in 2017, Mr Corbyn attacked “born to rule” Conservatives and accused the prime minister of trying to “fool” people into thinking Brexit was being blocked by an “establishment elite”.
“They know the Conservatives are the establishment elite,” he insisted, adding the government will “fight harder and dirtier than ever before” to stay in power.
But Mr Johnson hit back, saying Mr Corbyn is “privately educated as well”.
“This is not about where you come from or what your background is, this is about your vision for the country,” the prime minister said.
“At the moment, not everyone has the same opportunity, we want to increase opportunity around the whole of the UK.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats sought to keep pace by revealing their election slogan: “Stop Brexit, build a brighter future.”
The election campaign has been kickstarted early, ahead of parliament officially closing down early next week.
Mr Corbyn used his speech to repeat key Labour pledges – a minimum wage of £10 an hour for anyone older than 16; 30 hours of free child care for two-to-four year olds; scrapping tuition fees; renationalising rail, Royal Mail and water; and renegotiating a Brexit deal to be put to a referendum within six months of coming to power.
But he distanced himself from a policy passed by members at Labour’s party conference last month to effectively abolish private schools, only saying it would be “discussed” at the next manifesto meeting.
When asked by Sky News what he made of his poor personal poll ratings, the Labour leader said “it’s not about a presidential election”.
He refused to say whether he will stand down if he loses the election.
His shadow chancellor John McDonnell also ruled out to Sky News forming any coalition or pact if Labour does not win a majority, insisting “we would run a minority government”.
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, defended delaying Brexit while on a hospital trip in Cambridge, saying his deal was “oven-ready” and if he wins on 12 December – the first election held that month in nearly a century – Britain can be out of the EU “by the absolute latest by January next year”.
He repeated pledges to invest in schools, hospitals and infrastructure to stimulate the economy.
“Let’s get through the logjam now, get a new parliament going and then deliver on the priorities of the British people,” he said.
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