As a private poll released to the Daily Mirror suggested the leftwinger had widened his lead in the Labour leadership contest, Corbyn clarified his stance on the EU under pressure from pro-EU Labour MPs.
In a statement released to the Guardian, Corbyn said: “Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”
Corbyn made clear that he intended to campaign for reform from within the EU after Phil Wilson and Pat Glass, the two MPs who chair the parliamentary Labour party’s 100-strong pro-EU group, wrote to him asking that he make clear whether he supported EU membership. Corbyn had declined at a leadership hustings last week to rule out campaigning for a no vote on the grounds that David Cameron was intent on “trading away workers’ rights” in his EU negotiations.
In their letter, Wilson and Glass wrote: “We believe it is incumbent on you to state clearly to the party membership, and more importantly to the country, your position on membership of the EU before the ballot papers are despatched in August. We believe you need to make your position clear too: if you are leader of the Labour party, would you campaign to remain in the EU, yes or no?”
The Daily Mirror reported on Tuesday that Corbyn has opened up a 20-point lead in the leadership contest after a YouGov/Times poll last week gave him a 17-point lead.
The Mirror reported that it had been shown private polling which put Corbyn at 42% on first preference votes, ahead of Yvette Cooper on 22.6%. Andy Burnham is on 20% with Liz Kendall on 14%. Cooper almost catches Corbyn when Burnham and Kendall’s second preference votes are redistributed. He is forecast to win by 51% to 49%.
The paper’s poll will be treated with caution because it declined to name the organisation which carried out the survey. It also declined to say who commissioned the poll, though one of the leadership campaigns is likely to have done so.
The relatively pedestrian contest was electrified last week when the Times published a YouGov poll placing Corbyn in the lead on first preference votes on 43%, ahead of Burnham on 26%, Cooper on 20% and Kendall on 11%. In the final round, after the redistribution of Cooper and Kendall’s second preference votes, Cooper beat Burnham by 53% to 47%.
The surge in support for Corbyn has prompted warnings that “troublemakers” on the left and the right are abusing Labour’s new leadership rules by signing up as supporters so they can vote for Corbyn. Under the rules, anyone can vote in the leadership contest if they pay £3 and sign, or make a verbal agreement to support, a commitment to support Labour values.
Asked by presenter Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about “concern that some naughty people are joining to vote you in because they want to destroy the Labour party”, Corbyn said: “Naughty people shouldn’t join. They should only join and register as supporters if they are genuine supporters and become genuine members of the party. We will see what happens.”
Harriet Harman confirmed that she was seeking assurances that the contest was being conducted within the rules. But she defended the new rules, saying they were more robust because registered supporters had to make a declaration that they were committed to the values of the Labour party.
The interim Labour leader said “rigorous due diligence” was being undertaken by Labour staff, and the electoral system introduced in 2014 was less open to manipulation than its predecessor, which allowed opponents of Labour to vote without any checks.
She also disclosed that an email was being sent to local branches setting out how they could check whether bogus applicants were trying to register as supporters.
More than 20,000 people have joined as full members since the leadership nominations closed. There is a good chance that most are genuinely enthused, and many are likely to vote for Corbyn.
Harman said she had been seeking reports on the integrity of the process before the weekend allegations of entryism by the hard left, and calls for the process to be suspended.
Call for free childcare
Universal free childcare paid out of general taxation should be made available, Jeremy Corbyn has announced as he unveiled a series of policies in a manifesto on women’s issues.
In an appearance on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, the Labour leadership frontrunner warned of vast differences in childcare provisions.
Corbyn said: “We have a situation where the rather expensive nurseries that exist are either dominated by those that can afford to go there or those that get free places. The many in between just don’t get them at all. You have to pay for it through general taxation, no question about that.”
In his manifesto, titled Working with Women, Corbyn also pledges to:
- Force companies to publish mandatory equal pay audits
- Deliver equal protection to workers from discrimination
- Challenge sexism by promoting personal, social health and economic (PSHE) education in schools. This would include sex and relationship education
- Appoint a shadow cabinet with equal numbers of men and women and work towards ensuring that 50% of Labour MPs are women
Corbyn said: “Women face abuse, mistreatment and persistent discrimination, and they face it in work, at home and on our streets. Yet they disproportionately shoulder our unpaid care work, the daily grind of surviving on low pay, and the pain of cuts that have closed domestic violence shelters and left them with no safe haven.”
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