No matter which way you spin it, Jeremy Corbyn came out the clear winner in tonight’s Question time leaders special.
The question time leader special opened with a new format resembling an American TV type roast, rather than the tame Q&A we are used to. at first viewers could have been forgiven for thinking this was a setup waiting for a fall with hard questions hitting Mr Corbyn. However this gave Corbyn the opportunity to shine and make his point on the real issues that matter.
The first question was whether businesses should be frightened of his party. Corbyn says “no”. Big businesses may be asked to pay a bit more in tax but small firms will be supported. He says he wants to ensure the economy is thriving across the country, with a nod to his pledge for free broadband.
Another audience member says everyone should be frightened of Corbyn – and accuses him of eroding freedoms for ordinary people.
Corbyn says he spent his life ‘getting into hot water’ to defend people’s rights and freedoms. Pressed on why this man should be frightened, Corbyn says ‘I don’t know everything going on in your mind… but maybe we can talk about it later’. The result was audience laughter, From then on Mr Corbyn found his feet given tough answers to tough questions.
Corbyn grilled on misogyny and human rights:
One audience member says he is frightened by misogyny faced by MPs. He says he ‘does not buy nice old grandpa’ and says it is disgraceful that Corbyn did not defend Ruth Smeeth, a Labour MP, who was heckled at a press conference. The man says he saw Corbyn speak to the heckler.
Corbyn says this is unacceptable. He says he has spoken to Smeeth many times and he knew the man in question for many years.
during Jo Swinson’s Q&A period she tried to deflect an auckward question bringing it round to the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn
An audience member later challenged the Lib Dem leader about her criticism of Mr Corbyn.
He said: “Jeremy Corbyn has been fighting anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms since before you were born, you’ve got some brass neck!”
Corbyn neutral on Brexit
The questions ultimately came to Brexit. Asked how he would campaign in a referendum, Corbyn says Brexit is divisive. He says Labour would negotiate a new deal and then put it back to the people.
The audience groans as he says this and Corbyn looked a bit rattled then Corbyn announced:
‘I would adopt a neutral stance as prime minister so I can bring the communities of our country together’.
Some pundits are acting like this is some great revelation but the fact is this position as been known for some time, it was first suggested a few mouth ago that Corbyn take the same stance as Harold Wilson did during the 1975 EEC referendum. Corbyn would remain neutral allowing his cabinet and MPs to campaign as they felt fit, remain or leave.
In fact Steve Howell for the Guardian wrote: Jeremy Corbyn is wise to emulate Harold Wilson’s pragmatism on Europe
It is said of Harold Wilson that he epitomised the quip: “If you can’t ride two horses at the same time, you shouldn’t be in the circus.” He was often criticised for putting pragmatism before principle in his 13 years as Labour leader, but it was an attribute that served him well in preventing the party from tearing itself apart on Europe in the 1970s.
“My role and the role of our government will be to ensure that that referendum is held in a fair atmosphere and we will abide by the result of it,” Corbyn said. “And I will adopt, as prime minister, if I am at the time, a neutral stance so that I can credibly carry out the results of that to bring communities and country together rather than continuing an endless debate about the EU and Brexit.”
Labour’s policy on Brexit is to negotiate a “credible” withdrawal agreement within three months of a Labour government, which would be put to a referendum within six months.
Corbyn was the first of four party leaders to face 30 minutes of questioning from a TV audience in Sheffield on Friday night. He was followed by Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The audience of approximately 150 people had a roughly equal split between Conservative and Labour voters, with smaller groups of SNP and Liberal Democrat voters.
Watch the entire debate here.
- Jeremy Corbyn says he will take a neutral stance in new Brexit referendum
- Corbyn won’t allow Scottish independence referendum for two years at least
- Boris Johnson condemned over racist and homophobic remarks
- Jo Swinson admits to getting it wrong on austerity
… and struggles with criticism from Leavers and Remainers over revoke plan
Jo Swinson still claims she could be PM despite the polls.
She said: “Strange things can happen in politics.
“I didn’t predict Donald Trump was going to become President, I didn’t think Jeremy Corbyn was going to be leader of the Labour Party.”
The Liberal Democrat leader was asked: “Do you regret starting off the campaign by saying you could be PM and do you now agree how ridiculous that sounded?”
“Start with the easy ones,” Ms Swinson replied before adding that the election was not a binary choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson.
An audience member later asked the Liberal Democrat leader: “Is revoking Article 50 confirming to 17.4 million people that you think they’re stupid and didn’t know what we were voting for?”
Ms Swinson said she simply disagreed with people who voted Leave and did not think they were stupid.
However throughout the entire time Swinson was under a barrage from remainers expressing their disappointment in the Lib Dem policy of revoking article 50 calling it undemocratic.