Frank Field: Corbyn must come clean on Venezuela or the party will pay the price

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Jeremy Corbyn faces a test of his leadership in how he responds to the Venezuela crisis, a senior Labour backbencher has said.

Frank Field said Corbyn’s stance on the “desperate” situation in the Latin American nation would have a bearing on how he is viewed by the public.

The Labour leader is riding high in the opinion polls, regularly pulling his party ahead of Theresa May’s beleaguered Tories, but has faced criticism from some of his MPs following his silence on the crisis in Venezuela. Corbyn praised Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, but the current president’s brutal record has drawn repeated condemnation from world leaders.

Last night Field called on Corbyn to make clear his position on Venezuela.

“I do think one of the worries that people may have is, do we believe in parliamentary government or not? I think how he responds on this is crucial. And I think what’s going on in Venezuela is desperate,” he told the BBC’s Westminster Hour.

Field, the MP for Birkenhead, spoke out days after fellow backbencher Angela Smith, a member of the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, said she was “appalled” at the “wilful destruction of democratic structures”,  but a frontbencher responded by criticising US sanctions on the nation.

Yesterday the Sun on Sunday published footage which apparently showed Diane Abbott, now the shadow home secretary, using a 2012 speech to declare Venezuela’s elections as “less liable to fraud and impersonation” than those in Britain.

Corbyn has been on a short holiday in Croatia but is now thought to be back in Britain. This morning he took to Twitter to pay tribute to Kevin McNamara, the former Labour shadow cabinet minister, who died yesterday.

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