Corbyn and Smith set to face hustings grilling on reviving Labour in Scotland


Jeremy Corbyn Owen Smith

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith will tonight tussle for the leadership again when the fifth hustings event takes places in Glasgow.

The incumbent and the challenger will debate one another at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) and are expected to face questions over how to turn around Labour’s decline in Scotland. The party has just one MP north of Carlisle and slumped to third place in the Holyrood elections in May this year.

Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour, this week declared her backing for Smith and said Corbyn speaks “only to the converted”.

Corbyn’s supports have claimed, however, that he holds the key to restoring Labour’s fortunes in Scotland. Rhea Wolfson, who was the summer voted on to Labour’s ruling NEC, said Corbyn’s appeal to young people could help to attract voters in their teens and twenties who previously supported the Scottish National Party.

“Younger people who support the SNP and Greens are now going to Corbyn rallies. My frustration is that they see him as a figure of the left rather than of Labour, and we need to change that. He is an essential gateway to rebuilding Labour in Scotland as younger people come back to the party,” Wolfson told The Guardian.

The event, which begins at 7pm, comes towards the end of another story week in the leadership contest. Yesterday Smith apologised to “anyone who was offended” when he said his leadership would mean there is not a “lunatic” at the top of the party – although he denied his comments had been a reference to Corbyn.

Corbyn, however, has also struggled with the fallout from some of his key interventions and became embroiled in a furious row with Virgin Trains after making a video in which he claimed their service to Gateshead was “ram-packed”. Virgin claimed there had been seating available for Corbyn.

The previous hustings took place seven days ago in Birmingham where Corbyn and Smith were involved in bad-tempered exchanges over the future of the party and the current atmosphere between members.

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