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November 8, 2019

Labour hit by internal strife at campaign start

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November 8, 2019

LONDON: Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for Number 10 has suffered a series of blows as two former Labour MPs urged voters to back Boris Johnson instead at the General Election.

Ian Austin said the Labour leader was “not fit to lead”, and was joined by John Woodcock as they launched a campaign labelling Corbyn a “disgrace to his party”.It came as the Jewish Chronicle newspaper published a stark front page urging voters not to support Labour because of Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism within the party.

The paper said the “near total inaction of Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership in dealing with anti-Semites in the party has both emboldened them and encouraged others” — accusing Corbyn and his allies of having “actively impeded action against the racists.”

“If this man is chosen as our next prime minister, the message will be stark: that our dismay that he could ever be elevated to a prominent role in British politics, and our fears of where that will lead, are irrelevant.”

Austin, who is not contesting the Dudley North seat he has held since 2005, issued a

blistering attack on Corbyn — telling the Express & Star newspaper: “I must do everything I can to stop Jeremy Corbyn from getting into power.”

The long-time critic of Corbyn and a former adviser to Gordon Brown quit Labour in February in response to what he claimed was a “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”.

He said “decent patriotic Labour voters” should vote Tory to help Johnson get the majority he needs to stop Corbyn from entering Number 10, adding that the opposition leader was “too big a risk”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed Austin was “employed by the Tories”, adding: “What else do you expect him to do in an election campaign where you’re employed by the Tories, you speak on behalf of the Tories. That’s what this was about this morning.”

Woodcock, who announced this week that he would not stand for re-election in Barrow and Furness, “pleaded” with Labour supporters to “face up” to the choice of Johnson or Corbyn and to not “leave it until too late”.

Speaking in Westminster, he warned: “Now all of that to an extent is water under the bridge, but we have arrived in a campaign where one of two people are going to be Prime Minister...

“The choice to keep Jeremy Corbyn away from Downing Street, to stop him getting his hands on the levers of national security and defence has to be to vote Conservative in this election and that’s what I’ll be doing as well.”

Woodcock quit Labour with a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership last year. He had been sitting as an independent since having the Labour whip withdrawn in April 2018 pending investigation of an allegation, which he denies, of sexual harassment.

Their intervention came just hours after Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson - who has also been publicly critical of the leadership’s attempts to tackle anti-Semitism in the party - announced he is standing down, saying the time was right for him to step away from politics.

After a turbulent start to the election campaign for the two main parties, Labour and the Tories sought to shift the focus to the economy instead.

McDonnell said Labour would invest £150 billion in schools, hospitals, care homes and council housing over five years and he pledged an “irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people”.

“That means change, real change, and it means investment on a scale never seen before in this country and certainly never seen before in the north and outside of London and the south east,” he told supporters in Liverpool.

“To achieve that objective it also requires, therefore, an irreversible shift in the centre of gravity in political decision making as well as investment in this country from its location solely in London to be relocated to the North and regions and nations of our country.”

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