Owen Smith's unusal climbdown: I was saying that I wasn't a lunatic

Written by David Singleton on 24 August 2016 in Diary

The Labour leadership contest takes yet another strange turn.

Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith insisted that he never intended to call Jeremy Corbyn a "lunatic".

Instead, Smith has said he was actually making a reference to himself.

The latest bizarre twist in the Labour leadership race came after Smith told a rally in west London that "Jeremy is not the only socialist in the village".

He then upped the ante by warning: "What you won't get with me is some lunatic at the top of the Labour Party."

After Smith's comments angered the Labour leader's team, the Pontypridd MP subsequently denied that he called Corbyn a lunatic.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: "I didn't say that. I was saying that I wasn't a lunatic.

“If anyone is offended by the use of that word then I do apologise. I wasn't talking about Jeremy. It was a reference to me.”

A spokesman for Corbyn said: “Owen Smith has degraded this contest by descending into personal abuse.

“He should apologise to people suffering with mental illness, many of whom would have been dismayed and upset to hear such offensive language used in public by a Labour politician.

“He should also withdraw his remark, and spend time with people suffering from mental health problems to develop some sensitivity in his use of language.

“This is simply not the language that someone standing to lead our party should use, and it injects an ugly tone into this contest that no Labour member wants to see.”

The row is a distraction for Smith as he seeks to put clear water between himself and Corbyn over Brexit.

Smith said said his party should not give the Tories a "blank cheque" on negotiations. He would try to stop Theresa May formally triggering Brexit unless she promises a referendum on the final deal or calls a general election to approve it.

"I think we can ask the question at the end of this, is Britain going to be better or worse off at the end of the negotiation? If we are going to be worse off we should have the courage to say to the British people to think again," he said.



Picture by: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire/Press Association Images



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