Jeremy Corbyn has told Sky News he is “absolutely” preparing to take on Boris Johnson in a general election.
The Labour leader was speaking in Mansfield, a Nottinghamshire town that was represented by the Labour Party for almost a century before it elected its first Conservative MP in 2017.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I’ve got my summer campaign plan in place, we’ve got most of our candidates selected in all our marginal constituencies.
“We have many other policy announcements in place, particularly the ones on the Green Industrial Revolution and the Green New Deal that we’re putting forward, and working out more details on our health and social care policies.
“But fundamentally it’s about reducing inequality in Britain and about investing in good quality sustainable jobs for the future through the Green Energy Revolution.”
His words come just days after Mr Johnson took over leadership of the Conservative Party, replacing Theresa May.
Since he became prime minister, Mr Johnson has pledged to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers and promised a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds, as well as better broadband connectivity.
The emphasis on the domestic agenda has fuelled speculation he is keeping his options open for a snap general election, despite his strong denials.
The new PM has been given a boost after a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times put the Tories on 31%, up six points on a previous poll, while Mr Corbyn’s party was on 21%, a rise of two points.
When asked if he was worried about competing with Mr Johnson at the next election, Mr Corbyn said: “Not in the slightest.
“We’ll go out there and we’ll make our case.
“I don’t get involved in personal abuse, I don’t make any personal abuse, I don’t do personal, as far as I’m concerned the issues are too serious.
“We live in a country that is more unequal than almost any other in Europe, that is becoming more unequal, that in many parts of the country there has been no real investment since the end of the miners’ strike. Where we are today in Mansfield is an example of that.
“We have to have a change of approach and it has to be about investment, it has to be about real opportunities for young people so they don’t go into university and come out with debt. They do get the choice – a real choice – of an apprenticeship or a university education.”
Marginal seats such as Mansfield could decide the next election – and that election may not be too far away.