Smith and Corbyn camps in fresh row after impasse over television debates

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A row has broken out between the rival campaigns for the Labour leadership over claims nobody from Jeremy Corbyn’s team was willing to turn up to a crucial meeting to discuss hustings events with the party’s top official.

Kate Green, chair of Owen Smith’s campaign, has called on a Labour’s procedures committee to “urgently reconsider” the format of the hustings as the centrist candidate pushes for more to be scheduled.

Green, a former frontbencher, has written to Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary, amid claim and counter-claim over a debate which had been expected to take place on Channel 4 on Monday night. Smith accused Corbyn of “bottling” the debate when the leader decided not to attend but it is believed Corbyn’s team – having agreed to take part in five official events organised by the NEC – felt reluctant to take part in further hustings which were being pushed by individual broadcasters.

A source at the Corbyn campaign told LabourList they had offered to send staff – thought to be Momentum chief Jon Lansman – to the meeting with McNicol and strongly denied their team had rejected the request to attend.

“We didn’t refuse. We said the top campaign officials could attend. Corbyn couldn’t make it due to travel schedule”.

The exact nature of what was agreed over the Channel 4 debate appears unclear. LabourList has seen correspondence showing plans were underway last month for a Channel 4 hustings on August 1 but it is unclear whether Corbyn’s team ever agreed to participate.

Smith has previously called for a hustings to be scheduled in every region of the UK in order to boost participation.

Now Green has set out her unhappiness over the fact no meeting has been agreed to resolve the impasse and has called for all of the debates to be shown on television, on top of the screenings on the Labour Party website.

“We were more than prepared to make amendments to Owen’s extremely busy diary in order to meet to discuss an issue as important as the hustings timetable,” she wrote to McNicol.

“Owen is passionate that as many members and supporters are able to engage in this Leadership election by attending, or watching, both candidates set out their respective visions for leading our Party…

“However, given recent events – and the possibility that future media events will similarly not be attended by the other campaign – I would ask that the Procedures Committee urgently reconsider the format of the remaining Labour Party hustings so that these are broadcast live through as many broadcasters as possible in order to maximise opportunities for members and supporters to hear from the candidates.”

The full text of Green’s letter, sent on Tuesday, is below.

 

Dear Iain,

Thank you for your email of today explaining that it will not be possible to meet for this week’s urgent meeting because the other campaign is now unable to attend. Needless to say, I am disappointed. We were more than prepared to make amendments to Owen’s extremely busy diary in order to meet to discuss an issue as important as the hustings timetable.

Owen is passionate that as many members and supporters are able to engage in this Leadership election by attending, or watching, both candidates set out their respective visions for leading our Party. This is why he has previously called for more events to be added to the official timetable and he was pleased that last week, the Procedures Committee confirmed an additional Labour Party hustings would be added to the official timetable.

You have made it clear to both campaigns since 22 July that Labour Party hustings meetings and third party broadcast debates together formed part of the official debates timetable. It is unfortunate that the other campaign is now choosing to ignore this.

You have said that the Procedures Committee will now be given the opportunity to consider potential changes to the overall hustings timetable when it meets this Thursday. Unfortunately, this will be too late to affect Thursday’s meeting in Cardiff. However, given recent events – and the possibility that future media events will similarly not be attended by the other campaign – I would ask that the Procedures Committee urgently reconsider the format of the remaining Labour Party hustings so that these are broadcast live through as many broadcasters as possible in order to maximise opportunities for members and supporters to hear from the candidates.

Kind regards,

Kate Green

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