Jeremy Corbyn says Labour is 'stronger than ever' despite 24-point Tory poll lead
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted the Labour party is "stronger than ever" - despite a new opinion poll giving the Conservatives a 24-point poll lead.
The Labour leader also appeared to compare himself to the party's founding father, Keir Hardie, as he vowed to take on the "establishment" during the election campaign.
But significantly, he failed to deny reports that Labour's general election manifesto will contain a pledge to hold a second EU referendum on the final Brexit deal.
Mr Corbyn's first major speech of the election campaign came against the backdrop of a fresh YouGov poll which put the Tories on 48% - double Labour's 24%.
Asked if his party was now a "tainted brand" in British politics, he said: "There are people in the audience wearing badges of Keir Hardie. He was vilified beyond belief when he was elected the first ever Labour MP.
"They said 'how can a working man go to parliament'? Anyone who stands up to create a better, fairer, more decent society gets vilified - our party gets vilified.
"I'll tell you what - we're bigger than we've ever been, we're stronger than we've ever been and we're more determined than we've ever been."
He also insisted he had proved the cynics wrong by becoming Labour leader in the first place despite initially only being given a "200/1 outside chance" by bookmakers.
In his speech, Mr Corbyn said the dividing lines between Labour and the Tories "could not be clearer".
"It is the Conservatives, the party of privilege and the richest, versus the Labour party, the party that is standing up for working people to improve the lives of all," he said.
"It is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure that the people prevail."
SECOND EU REFERENDUM
But asked to rule out claims that he is being urged to include a second EU referendum pledge in the Labour manifesto, Mr Corbyn avoided the question and instead re-stated the party's current position on Brexit.
He said: "European Union negotiations are going on and we have set out our lines - primarily it is about gaining and retaining tariff-free access to the European market.
"We haven't threatened to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven on the shores of Europe, undermining the European Parliament. We have said instead we want to work with them to have an agree process by which we would continue to trade with Europe."
Tory chairman Patrick McLoughlin said: "This is yet more evidence of chaos from Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. It shows they can’t provide the strong and stable leadership Britain needs at this serious moment in our history.
"It’s clear Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP are now lining up to disrupt our Brexit negotiations in a coalition of chaos. This can only mean more uncertainty for Britain, more risk and a future that is less secure."