Corbyn on a vote of no confidence, Brexit, antisemitism and diversity

If you, like LabourList, took a break from politics over the weekend, you’ll want to know about Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Sophy Ridge. Here’s what the Labour leader told Sky News on Sunday.

On calling a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister…

Corbyn did not reveal when Labour would put down a motion of no confidence, and suggested it would depend on Boris Johnson’s next Brexit moves.

  • When are you going to call a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister? “Parliament goes back in September. I think it’s at that point that we’ll look at the situation there. But it’s also up to the Prime Minister what he decides to do as well, because if he’s trying to take us out on a no deal Brexit at the end of October we will oppose that.”
  • Can you guarantee that you will call a confidence motion before we leave the EU in October? “I can guarantee you this: we will do everything to prevent a no deal exit and we will do everything to challenge this government and we’ll do it at the time of our choosing.”

On Labour’s Brexit policy…

Corbyn did not confirm whether Labour would campaign for Leave or Remain against its own deal.

  • Are you now supporting a second referendum in all circumstances? “No deal we’ll oppose and we think people should have a final choice on it.  They can have a vote then between remain and whatever option Boris Johnson decides to put to them at that time…”
  • Does Labour now back a second referendum in all circumstances? “What we’d say is there’ll be a second referendum to make a choice between whatever deal is arranged and what the public want.”
  • Including a Labour deal if you are in power? “Yes, of course, the same thing would apply.”
  • Are you going to be campaigning for Remain? What if Labour negotiates the deal? “Well we have got to get into office first to negotiate a deal, we’ve got to win an election first…” (later) “What we propose is actually a very good deal… That is what we put forward and that obviously is why I put it forward because my issue is also uniting people in the country. My party is the only one that had significant numbers of people who voted both Remain and Leave in the referendum.”

On antisemitism and the BBC Panorama programme…

Corbyn said he was upset by the programme and felt “very sorry and very sad” for the staffers who contributed and spoke of mental health problems. He outlined the reasons for which he did not want a fully independent complaints process.

  • What did you think of it? “I was upset at the feelings of some of our former staff, what they said. I was upset by the way the programme was characterised and presented, and we have put in some complaints surrounding that.  I am very clear there is no place whatsoever for antisemitism in our society, in our communities or in our party.”
  • Kat Buckingham had quit the party with nowhere to go and had a breakdown, Sam Matthews actively considered committing suicide, Louise Withers-Green was signed off with depression and anxiety.  How do you feel when you hear that? “I feel very sorry and very sad for them.  The first thing I did when I became leader of the party was to ask senior staff what processes were available for staff support because of stress at work.  Now this wasn’t about antisemitism, just the whole principle of stress at work, I feel very strongly about that and that support has to be there. Some of those people had to work very hard and were overwhelmed by cases, letters and so on and remember, our party membership virtually trebled.”
  • Can you say totally that since Jennie Formby became general secretary there has been no interference by you or anyone in your office? “What we said is ‘get the cases done as quickly as you can in a timely, fair and legally sustainable manner’.”
  • Why don’t you just set up an independent process? “Nobody else has an independent process in their organisations. What we do have is legal oversight of the process to ensure consistency in decision making and when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission concludes its report, we will obviously listen very carefully to what they have to say.  I do think there has to be a legally robust process. We also have a degree of independence in the party, there is something called the national constitutional committee which is completely independent of me and the national executive and they make the final decision.”
  • Do you take responsibility? “I am the leader of the party therefore I must take responsibility for what happens in our party.”

On diversity in political parties…

    • Do you think Boris Johnson is racist? “Boris Johnson has said some awful comments about black children, about Muslim women and about people within our society and our community which I absolutely condemn.  I hope he will understand the hurt that caused with the remarks that he made.”
    • Labour is now the only party that hasn’t had a woman leader. Is that something you should be ashamed of? “I’m not ashamed of it but there will be a woman leader in the future, I’m very sure.” Would you like the next leader to be a woman? “I’m not going to get involved in choosing them because I am very happy in the job I’m doing and I am very determined to win the general election so we get a Labour government but that Labour government will be gender balanced.”

On the next election…

  • If that election isn’t until 2022, will you still fight it? “I am fine, I’m fit, I’m ready, I’m raring to go.”

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