Denis Staunton’s UK election diary: Corbyn’s disastrous interview

Labour leader to attempt to shift focus to NHS and away from anti-Semitism claims

In a BBC interview Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly refused to apologise to the British Jewish community over anti-Semitism claims. It followed Britain's chief rabbi saying Corbyn was unfit to be PM for failing to stem anti-Semitism within his party.

 

It’s 15 days to Election Day.

This morning’s front pages make dismal reading for Jeremy Corbyn, as almost every paper leads with his disastrous BBC interview last night with Andrew Neil. Those most ideologically hostile to Labour are, as you might expect, the most unsparing, with the Daily Mail’s headline “Torn Apart” taking up most of its front page, the Express asking “Has Corbyn’s horror show gifted Boris the keys to No 10?” and the Sun describing the interview as “shameful”.

The Times and the Telegraph lead on Corbyn’s refusal to apologise to Britain’s Jews and the Guardian’s headline says “Corbyn struggles to rebuff anti-Semitism accusations”. You can read my report here and my analysis here.

BBC news leads this morning with a different aspect of the interview, when Neil pressed Corbyn into acknowledging that some of his tax plans would hit lower earners. Labour has promised that tax increases will only affect those on more than £80,000 a year – the top 5 per cent of earners.

But the party has also pledged to abolish the marriage tax allowance, which can save couples on lower incomes £250 a year, on the basis that is discriminates against single people. And Labour’s plan to tax capital gains at the same level as income could hit people who depend on private pensions, even if their earnings from dividends are low.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as he appears on BBC’s The Andrew Neil Show. Photograph: Getty Images
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as he appears on BBC’s The Andrew Neil Show. Photograph: Getty Images

Corbyn will today try to move the campaign’s focus back to the National Health Service (NHS) with a statement in London this morning and he will be talking about climate change during campaign stops in the south-west of England later.

His troubles come as polls point to a tightening in the contest with Labour moving upwards and narrowing the gap with the Conservatives. Kantar has the Tory lead over Labour at 10 points, down from 18 last week and ICM puts the Conservative lead at seven points, down from 10 last week.

A YouGov poll of Welsh voters points to a dramatic recovery for Labour, who are now 6 points ahead of the Conservatives in Wales.

Until this week, Labour was winning the battle to dominate the news agenda with issues such as health, education and funding public services rather than Brexit. The latest focus on anti-Semitism has the potential to halt the party’s upward momentum as voters look more closely at Corbyn’s qualities as a leader rather than the policies he advocates.

Recommended reads

Jennifer O’Connell meets older voters in the West Midlands.

HuffPost’s Paul Waugh asks if Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism problem is a leadership problem.

Rachel Shabi in the Guardian laments how antisemitism has become a partisan issue.

Daniel Finkelstein warns the Conservative electoral strategy will come at a price.

Quote of the day

Michael Gove: “I set trends dem man copy”. Photograph: JEFF Overs/BBC/AFP via Getty Images
Michael Gove. Photograph: JEFF Overs/BBC/AFP via Getty Images
I set trends dem man copy
– Michael Gove responds to critics of his attack on grime artist Stormzy’s political engagement

What’s on today

10am Jeremy Corbyn makes a statement on the NHS

11am Nicola Sturgeon launches the SNP manifesto

3.30pm Former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine joins Liberal Democrat candidates to make a speech about Brexit

Poll tracker

Conservatives 42.4 Labour 29.6 Liberal Democrats 14.6 Brexit 4.4 Greens 3.4 Others 5.7 – From Britain Elects

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