JEREMY Corbyn has positioned himself as the workers’ champion taking on the forces of the Conservative Establishment in his New Year’s message.

With dire poll ratings and his party having recently suffered two poor by-election performances, the Labour leader points out how the New Year is an opportunity to make a fresh start.

Party sources have suggested Mr Corbyn wants to raise his profile in 2017 and take advantage of the mood towards populism that saw the Leave campaign triumph in the EU referendum and Donald Trump pull off a surprise win in the race for the US presidency.

Noting how the last 12 months were momentous at home and abroad, the party leader said: “2016 will be defined in history by the referendum on our EU membership. People didn’t trust politicians and they didn’t trust the European Union; I understand that.

“I’ve spent over 40 years in politics campaigning for a better way of doing things, standing up for people, taking on the Establishment and opposing decisions that would make us worse off.

“We now have the chance to do things differently; to build an economy that invests and works for everyone across all our nations and regions.”

Mr Corbyn criticised the way in which Westminster was “making people’s lives harder”. He referred to the “scandal” of rising homelessness, increased waiting times in hospital A&E wards, a creaking social care system and an explosion in low pay and zero hours contracts.

“Those in charge today have put the jobs market, housing, the NHS and social care in crisis. We can’t let them mess this up. It’s about everyone’s future,” he declared.

Labour, its leader insisted, accepted and respected the result of the June 23 referendum. “We won’t be blocking our leaving the European Union but we won’t stand by,” he noted; Mr Corbyn has already indicated the Opposition would seek to amend any parliamentary Bill on the Brexit process in order to protect Britain’s access to Europe's markets, workers' rights and environmental protection measures.

“A Brexit that protects the bankers in the City and continues to give corporate handouts to the biggest companies is not good enough.”

He added: “Labour was founded to stand up for people and we founded the institutions that do that day in, and day out, like our NHS. We are the party that listens to you and makes Britain better. Let’s do that, together, in 2017.”

Meantime, Mr Corbyn accused Theresa May of behaving like the autocratic monarch Henry VIII by refusing to promise Westminster a vote on the final Brexit deal.

The Labour leader said it would be "extraordinary" if the Prime Minister used the royal prerogative to bypass MPs while parliaments in other European countries were able to vote on the negotiated package.

His comments come after Mrs May repeatedly refused earlier this month to commit herself to giving the UK Parliament a vote after the eventual deal is thrashed out in early 2019.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Corbyn said: “It would have to come to Parliament. She cannot hide behind Henry VIII and the divine rights of the power of kings on this one.

“The idea that on something as major as this the Prime Minister would use the royal prerogative to bypass Parliament is extraordinary; I don't know where she's coming from."

The Labour leader also dismissed reports that he had told friends he was ready to step down in 2019 because of his age; he is 67.

"’Friends’ is obviously a very loose term these days; I've never said that. I'm very happy doing my campaigning. This is the age of the 60s; look at Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Angela Merkel; look around you. Sixties is the new 40s; I keep fit," he added.