Jeremy Corbyn: ‘I owe York a big apology for the election rally that never happened’

Jeremy Corbyn on the York People's Assembly live event. Photograph: Screengrab

Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for missing a street rally in York city centre organised on his behalf during the election campaign in December.

And the former Labour leader also told a York virtual event that coronavirus crisis is a “vindication” of the policies the Labour party put forward during that election.

Mr Corbyn was speaking at an event organised by York People’s Assembly – a branch of the left-wing organisation that campaigns against austerity.

He told viewers he was “desperately sorry” about the election result, adding: “The sad thing is that I was being accused of being some kind of crazy spendthrift in November and December, who would bankrupt the country by investing in education, health, homeless people and protecting jobs.

“And making sure the railways were run for public benefit not private profit and so on.

“And guess what’s happened? All of those things because of this coronavirus crisis have actually come to pass.

“In that sense, it doesn’t make anybody better off, but there is, I believe, an obvious vindication of the policies we put forward in the eyes of a very large number of people and the country.”

‘I will come to York’

The event was organised to discuss life after lockdown. And Mr Corbyn, MP for Islington North, also spoke about missing a rally before the election after getting stuck in traffic.

His no-show disappointed hundreds of Labour supporters who had gathered in the city centre.

He said: “I owe York a big apology for the election street rally that never happened in December. It’s the only street rally that went wrong in the whole of the campaign.

“I will come to York physically when Covid is over.

“I felt really bad about that day because we did a really successful international launch and then all sorts of logistical problems kicked in.

“So I’m really sorry and I thank people for their forbearance in that.”

Labour supporters in St Helen’s Square wait forlornly for Jeremy Corbyn on 1 December. Photograph: YorkMix

Mr Corbyn added: “I do think the Government’s announcement [about the reopening of the hospitality sector] is too soon. It’s not backed up by evidence.

“When workplaces are reopening there has to be safety and risk assessments to make sure that there is proper distancing in place.”

Laura Pidcock, secretary of the People’s Assembly and former MP for North West Durham, was also on the panel and was asked what she thought of Labour’s reaction to the easing of the lockdown.

She said: “We are facing the most intense workers’ rights crisis and health crisis in the last hundred years. And the opposition have to talk about it with the seriousness that it deserves.”