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Jeremy Corbyn refuses to promise immigration cutback

September 28, 2016 9:44 AM
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It is not our objective to reduce numbers, spokesman says, putting the Labour leader on another collision course with MPs

Jeremy Corbyn will use his keynote speech at the Labour conference today to tell his party he will not "sow division" by pledging to cut immigration.

He is expected to tell his party: "A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the changes that are needed."

His position puts him at odds with some of his MPs, who say the Brexit vote showed many Labour supporters want curbs on freedom of movement.

"He hasn't even made his speech yet but Jeremy Corbyn's comments on immigration have sparked fury with Labour MPs," says the Daily Telegraph.

Corbyn's spokesman told reporters they were "not concerned about numbers" and it was not their "objective to reduce the numbers, to reduce immigration". Rather than seeking to limit immigration, Labour would plan for a "migrant impact fund" to lessen the effect of immigration on low-paid workers, he added.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd accused the opposition leader of wanting "unlimited immigration".

Prominent Labour backbenchers including Chuka Umunna, Stephen Kinnock and Rachel Reeves have called for the debate on freedom of movement to be re-opened.

Reeves, the MP for Leeds West, warned a conference fringe meeting yesterday that voters' concerns about immigration could "explode" on to the streets if they remain unaddressed, reports The Guardian.

The Times says deputy leader Tom Watson also disagrees with Corbyn on the issue.

The problem, says Isabel Hardman in her blog for The Spectator, is that Labour members like Corbyn but his MPs do not - and as long as this continues, the party's "deep-seated problems", which include the issue of immigration, are getting worse and worse.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron has made a passionate pitch to centrist Labour voters, saying the country faces 25 years of Conservative majority rule unless they join his party.

Delivering his keynote address at the Lib Dem conference yesterday, Farron said his party could take advantage of the infighting currently engulfing Labour to recover from its devastating loss at the general election last year.

He also paid tribute to former Labour leader and prime minister Tony Blair, praising many of his policies and his determination to win elections, but launched a blistering attack against current leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of "betraying" voters.

However, it "remains to be seen how Farron's praise of Blair will be received by his own party", says The Guardian. "On the Monday night at the Lib Dems' annual unofficial glee club, members lustily sang: 'Tony Blair can f*** off and die' to the tune of Don McLean's American Pie," the paper adds.

Farron repeated his demand for a second referendum on a Brexit deal and said the Lib Dems would consider raising taxes to ensure the NHS is better funded.

Citing the success of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose liberal party overtook the official opposition to beat out the country's conservatives last year, he vowed to take his party "from a handful of seats to dozens of seats, from the fringe to the centre, from irrelevance to importance" - "although Trudeau is better looking than me and he's got a tattoo".

Political commentators praised Farron's fiery speech, but doubted it would have much impact. The party's poll ratings having changed little since last year, although its membership has almost doubled.

The Times journalist Matt Chorley described the address as a "passionate, articulate, bold" pitch from Farron who was "desperately" reaching out to the disillusioned Labour voter. "But is anyone listening?" he asks.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn failed to back down last night when challenged about a list of "disloyal" MPs issued by his campaign team. Questioned about the list by his leadership rival Owen Smith in a TV debate, he simply insisted on its accuracy.

The names, which were released to journalists by Corbyn's campaign team yesterday, comprise 14 Labour MPs, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who are accused of abusing the leader or his allies.

The list highlights the behaviour of MPs including Jess Phillips, who told Corbyn's ally Diane Abbott to "f*** off" and Tristram Hunt who reportedly said Labour was "in the s***".

Watson was included for calling Corbyn's grassroots Momentum campaign a "rabble", while John Woodcock was listed for dismissing Corbyn as a "f***ing disaster" as a leader.

The team claim the list was released by mistake by a junior member of staff, but Woodcock said this was the "oldest trick in the book" and insisted the list "shabbily" targeted MPs.

Smith asked Corbyn about the list as the two held their final TV hustings on Sky last night, calling it a "deselection list".

He said: "You talk about trying to unite the party, but I find that quite hard to reconcile with something your campaign did just this evening, which was to publish a list, a deselection list if you like, of … MPs including the deputy leader of our party, Tom Watson, who your campaign think transgressed against you in criticising you. That isn't unifying. That is deeply divisive."

Corbyn's response was to affirm the accuracy of the list. He said: "There was information put out there, which is statements made by colleagues on the record and is all out there in the public domain."

Corbyn added that he would rather Watson had not referred to Momentum activists as a "rabble", before trying to move the debate to policy issues and the need for unity.

The other listed MPs are Ian Austin, Neil Coyle, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Jamie Reed, Karl Turner, Stephen Kinnock and Tom Blenkinsop. According to The Guardian, a bullying complaint has been made about the list to Labour's chief whip.

Coyle, who is the MP for Bermondsey, has even threatened to sue Corbyn over the "ridiculous, petty, student politics list". He told the BBC: "This is defamation. I've been accused of abuse. That is completely unacceptable and it's so unprofessional."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former chancellor George Osborne could be among the MPs to lose their seats in a shake-up of Westminster constituencies announced today.

Revealing the details, the Evening Standard said the changes would transfer large chunks of Corbyn's Islington North into constituencies held by two of his closest allies, Diane Abbott, the shadow health secretary, and Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary.

Both would have a strong claim to run again in the revised constituencies of Islington South and Hackney Central as they are largely similar to their existing seats, "potentially leaving Corbyn out in the cold at the next election", says the Daily Mail.

A source close to the Labour leader insisted there was "every chance to believe Jeremy will have a seat to contest" in 2020.

Recommendations by the Boundary Commission, which has been given the task of cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600, include wide-ranging changes to English constituency boundaries to ensure seats contain roughly the same number of voters.

The cull is expected to hit Labour the hardest, with some research suggesting it could increase the current Conservative majority in parliament by 30 seats.

The changes are due to be implemented before the next general election in 2020, "but their full impact will not be known until experts have been able to analyse the commission's revised proposals in early 2018", says the Daily Telegraph.

Chris Skidmore, minister for the constitution, has defended the controversial review saying it was needed to stop a return to "rotten boroughs" and "to promote fairness and restore integrity to our electoral system".

However, there are concerns about the data being used by the commission, after it emerged that the team will rely on the December 2015 electoral roll, compiled before two million people registered to vote in the EU referendum.

"It makes sense to have a regular review of parliamentary constituencies," says the Daily Mirror, "but the Tories have done everything they can to ensure this boundary review disadvantages Labour."

The paper adds that "anyone who cares about democracy should be scandalised by this decision".

Labour MP Owen Smith and the party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced questions from a BBC Question Time audience in Oldham last night as the leadership contest reaches its final weeks.

During the debate, which was chaired by David Dimbleby, Corbyn insisted that Labour would "come together" if he were re-elected leader while Smith countered that a Corbyn victory would leave the party in opposition "for a generation".

The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow heaps praise on Corbyn's performance, saying he "seemed to exude confidence". What was "striking", he says, was "how much better a performer Corbyn is now at this format than he was a year ago".

However, over at the Daily Telegraph, John McTernan thinks Smith "wiped the floor" with Corbyn, delivering an "exemplary" and "sharp" performance, and offering "muscular policy" in contrast to the "Kumbaya" approach from Corbyn.

Smith was "destroyed" by an angry audience member over his "hypocritical" stance on Europe, notes the Daily Express. The man told Smith, who has pledged to hold a second referendum on Brexit, that "over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union" and that it was wrong for the leadership hopeful to ignore the result.

There were nicer words from the floor for Corbyn who was told by one audience member to ignore "negative comments" because "people love you, people want you to be the prime minister".

But it was the Labour Party itself that was the real loser on the night, according to The Guardian's sketch writer John Crace. As Question Time began, both leaders "looked as if they had just realised the debate wasn't such a good idea after all and would have dearly loved an opportunity to back out", he says.

And they might have done well to do just that, according to Crace, who says both made voting Labour look like "an unattractive option".

An unorthodox measure of the two leaders' performance was identified by iNews, which said that Corbyn won "the selfie poll". It observed: "As soon as the credits rolled... voters crowded around Corbyn for a picture as Smith, who found no queue of enthusiastic photo-takers near him, walked off stage."

Twitter was awash with verdicts on the debate. One tweeter felt that both men were doomed.

Jennie Formby, a senior Unite official, argued that Smith emerged badly during the proceedings.

But it was left to actor Alex Andreou to sum up the mood of many despairing tweeters.


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