Wednesday 21 February 2018

New British Labour leader snubs national anthem, his driver 'assaults' BBC cameraman

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn Newsdesk Newsdesk

JEREMY Corbyn's leadership of the British Labour Party has been thrown into fresh confusion after the party was forced to clarify that he will sing the national anthem at ceremonial events.

Meanwhile, it is also being claimed that a BBC cameraman was assaulted and left with neck and facial injuries as Mr Corbyn left his home yesterday.

Mr Corbyn repeatedly refused to say during a pre-PMQs interview that he was prepared to join in renditions of God Save The Queen.

But minutes later a Labour spokesman insisted Mr Corbyn had "meant to say" he would sing.

Mr Corbyn has been heavily criticised - including by members of his own front bench - after remaining silent while David Cameron and others sang the anthem during a Battle of Britain commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral.

Asked repeatedly in the pooled interview whether he would sing in future, the Labour leader merely insisted he would "take part fully" and "did not see a problem" with his actions.

"I was at the Battle of Britain memorial yesterday, I was there out of respect for that amazing moment in British history," he told Sky News.

"I was also thinking about my family, my mum and dad who were there at that time in London and worked as air raid wardens during the Blitz."

Pressed on whether he would sing in future, Mr Corbyn replied: "It was a respectful ceremony and I stood in respect throughout it.

"I will be at many events and I will take part fully in those events. I don't see a problem about this."

He added: "The issue surely is that we had a memorial for the Battle of Britain, I was there and I showed respect for it.

"The proper way is to take a full part in it, and I will take a full part in it."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "What he meant was that 'taking part fully' would include singing the anthem.

"That is what he was saying in the interview this morning."

Meanwhile, there are some suggestions that a British Government Car Service driver might have been involved in the scuffle outside Jeremy Corbyn's home in which a BBC cameraman was allegedly assaulted.

A British Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are investigating media reports of an incident yesterday involving a Government Car Service vehicle. We are looking at whether the driver was involved and the extent and nature of that involvement.”

Later today, Mr Corbyn lived up to his campaign pledge of "a new kind of politics" by crowd-sourcing his first appearance at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Appearing opposite David Cameron for the first time at the despatch box, the Islington North MP told the Prime Minister that many voters had told him PMQs - and Parliament more generally - was "out of touch and too theatrical".

He said an appeal to the public to tell Labour they would like to ask the PM had produced 40,000 responses, from which he had selected six to fill the questions traditionally given to the leader of the opposition during the 30-minute session.

One by one, he read out queries from Marie on housing, Steven on rents, Paul on tax credits, Claire on benefit thresholds, and Gail and Angela on mental health.

Mr Cameron welcomed the change in tone, telling his new Labour adversary that "no-one would be more delighted than me" if PMQs could become a "genuine exercise in asking questions and answering questions".

He congratulated Mr Corbyn on his "resounding victory" and welcomed him to the frontbench, adding: "I know we will have many strong disagreements, I'm sure, between us at these exchanges but where we can work together in the national interest we should do so and I wish him well in his job."

Mr Corbyn - who asked all his questions in a sober, low-key manner and did not resort to the kind of quips and put-downs normally exchanged in the weekly clash - thanked the PM for his commitment to answering questions "in a more adult way than it's been done in the past".

But the Conservative leader did not entirely resist the opportunity to go on the attack, repeatedly warning that the high-quality public services which Mr Corbyn demanded would not be affordable without a strong economy.

"We will not have a strong NHS unless we have a strong economy, and if the Labour Party is going to go down the route of unlimited spending, unlimited borrowing, unlimited tax rates, printing money, they will wreck the economic security of our country and the family security of every family in our country," Mr Cameron told MPs.

"We won't be able to afford a strong NHS without a strong economy."

Questions from Conservative backbenchers gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to highlight concerns about the left-wing policy platform on which Mr Corbyn won the Labour leadership.

Asked about defence policy, Mr Cameron said the cornerstone of the UK's security was remaining a member of Nato, spending 2% of GDP on the armed forces and keeping an independent nuclear deterrent.

"The fact the Labour Party are now turning away from those things is deeply regrettable," said the PM. "National security is the most important thing a government can deliver and we will never fall short."

In an apparent dig at Mr Corbyn's comment during the leadership campaign that he could not think of a good case for sending British troops abroad, Mr Cameron told Tory MP James Gray: "For those who wonder sometimes what are the uses of British troops, I would say get a map out and have a look at Sierra Leone."

In response to a question on Northern Ireland from DUP MP Nigel Dodds, he paid tribute to former Conservative MPs Airey Neave and Ian Gow, who were murdered by Republican terrorists.

Without directly referring to controversy over Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell's previous comments on Northern Ireland, the PM said: "I have a simple view, which is the terrorism we faced was wrong, it was unjustifiable, the death and the killing was wrong. It was never justified and people who seek to justify it should be ashamed of themselves."

He resisted the opportunity offered by a question about Tuesday's Battle of Britain memorial to castigate Mr Corbyn for his much-remarked failure to sing the national anthem at the event in St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday. Instead, Mr Cameron simply stated his pride in the Second World War airmen, telling MPs: "It's a reminder of how proud we should be of our armed forces, then, today and always."

Conservative MPs appeared to be following instructions not to show triumphalism over the veteran left-winger's election as Labour leader.

But Corby MP Tom Pursglove let slip a hint of their delight as he told Mr Cameron: "The Prime Minister has a lot to be pleased with Corby for - and that's Corby, not Corbyn..."

Mr Cameron replied: "Ever since your election I have been feeling a sense of Corbymania."

Labour aides said Mr Corbyn had looked at a "really good selection" of the 40,000 suggestions for questions he received from members of the public and selected the final six by picking issues that were among the most popular and "matched" his own priorities.

A team of Labour Party workers led by his chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, helped him prepare for the gruelling session.

Labour denied that the new approach gave Mr Cameron an easy ride by making it difficult to pin the Prime Minister down on a particular issue.

"The questions were very direct and they demanded clear answers," a Labour source said.

Asked about policy differences that appear to have emerged between Mr Corbyn and his front bench, a Labour source said "lots of listening" would be done and some policies would be reviewed under the new leadership.

Press Association

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