Jeremy Corbyn was branded ‘naive to the point of being dangerous’ last night for questioning the killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist.
In an astonishing intervention, he said that arresting Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi would have been ‘the right thing to do’.
This is despite the Islamic State chief having detonated a suicide vest when US special forces cornered him last month.
His comments, in which he questioned the American account of the raid, provoked ridicule from military and security experts.
It capped a day of disaster for Labour in which:
- Mr Corbyn flip-flopped over his stance on a second Scottish independence referendum;
- Shadow cabinet ministers squabbled in public over whether their plan for a four-day week would apply to the NHS;
- Senior figures questioned the party’s plans to ‘extend free movement’ amid Tory claims it could lead to immigration trebling;
- Experts said income tax plans announced by shadow chancellor John McDonnell would mean 1.3million people paying more;
- The centre-left Resolution Foundation think-tank said families and businesses could pay £60billion more in tax under Labour’s plans compared with those of the Conservatives.
1) Terror gaffe Arriving in Glasgow at the start of a two-day tour of Scotland, Mr Corbyn was heckled and labelled a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ by a Church of Scotland minister
1) Terror gaffe
Arriving in Glasgow at the start of a two-day tour of Scotland, Mr Corbyn was heckled and labelled a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ by a Church of Scotland minister over his past associations with supporters of the groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Asked by LBC Radio whether the death of Al-Baghdadi was a good thing, Mr Corbyn replied: ‘Him being removed from the scene is a very good thing.
‘If it would have been possible to arrest him – I don’t know the details of the circumstances at the time, I’ve only seen various statements put out by the US about it – surely that would have been the right thing to do. If we want to live in a world of peace and justice, we should practise it as well.’
Boris Johnson condemned the Labour leader’s remarks, saying: ‘Al-Baghdadi was an absolutely diabolical foe of this country.
‘I do not think it is realistic to suggest he could just be apprehended by the police in the circumstances in which he was finally run to ground. I think his approach is naïve, it is naive to the point of being dangerous.’
Lord West, a retired admiral and former Labour security minister, said it would have been impracticable to capture the terror chief.
‘These people live by the sword and die by the sword,’ he added.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan, said the idea of Mr Corbyn in Downing Street would be ‘horrific from the point of view of national security’.
He added: ‘It is impossible to take such a person seriously. Why didn’t he volunteer to go to Syria to effect an arrest himself? He only advocates unnecessary danger for others, never himself.’
John Mann, a former Labour MP who is now a peer, tweeted: ‘Baghdadi blew himself up with a suicide belt. An arrest might have been slightly difficult in these circumstances.’
Al-Baghdadi, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, blew himself and two children up when he detonated his suicide vest.
Donald Trump boasted that he ‘died like a dog’ and was ‘whimpering, crying and screaming’ as he ran down a tunnel in northern Syria. US soldiers were pursuing him following a fierce firefight.
While Mr Corbyn was in Scotland, senior Labour figures descended into infighting over vital policies. Mr McDonnell and Jon Ashworth, the party’s health spokesman, directly contradicted each other over plans to introduce a four-day week. Mr Ashworth declared that the plan would not apply to the NHS, after the Tories warned that the impact would outweigh Labour’s proposals for increasing funding, leading to potential cuts.
‘We are not imposing a four-day week on the NHS,’ he said.
But speaking at a joint event later, Mr McDonnell said: ‘It will apply to everybody – what Jon was talking about this morning was how you apply it over a ten-year period.’
Mr McDonnell also confirmed that Labour would put up taxes on workers earning more than £80,000 a year, saying the wealthiest 5 per cent of earners would be asked to ‘pay a little bit more’.
The Tories have claimed that the scale of Labour’s plans will eventually mean tax rises for all.
Labour’s high command appeared split on what, if any, restrictions to place on immigration when the party’s manifesto is published next week.
And Mr Corbyn sowed confusion north of the border by first ruling out a second referendum on Scottish independence in his ‘first term’ in office, before changing his stance to say it would not be a priority in his early years in power.
This opened the door to another poll to break up Britain, as demanded by the SNP.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP leader responded to Mr Corbyn’s remarks by insisting she would not help him into power unless he backed her timescale of holding another vote next year.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has done so many U-turns that he doesn’t know which way he is facing.
‘He’s completely unfit to be prime minister and hopelessly adrift on both Brexit and independence.’
Mr Corbyn’s views on Al-Baghdadi echoed his stance in 2011 when – following the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the Americans – he said the Al Qaeda leader should have been put on trial at The Hague.
2) Will 32-hour working week hit the NHS? They can’t decide! Plans for a four-day week sparked division in the Shadow Cabinet yesterday as senior Labour figures disagreed on whether it would affect the NHS
2) Will 32-hour working week hit the NHS? They can’t decide!
Plans for a four-day week sparked division in the Shadow Cabinet yesterday as senior Labour figures disagreed on whether it would affect the NHS.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the party’s proposals would apply to all employees.
But hours earlier Jon Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, said the party was not ‘imposing’ a four-day week on the health service.
Labour announced two months ago that it wants to see a 32-hour working week – effectively four days – implemented over the next ten years.
Mr Ashworth told BBC Breakfast yesterday: ‘In ten years, when we’ve raised productivity… there’ll be a review to see if changes in [the] workplace mean workers… can reduce their hours.
‘The idea that there’s going to be a four-day week in the NHS on December 13, which Matt Hancock was suggesting, was just nonsense.’ Mr Ashworth also told TalkRadio: ‘We are not imposing a four-day week on the NHS.’
But speaking alongside Mr Ashworth in London later, Mr McDonnell said: ‘It will apply to everybody – what Jon was talking about this morning was how you apply it over that ten-year period.’
But health experts said shorter working hours could cause huge issues for the health service. Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘There’s a finite pool of nurses and doctors, and we already don’t have enough staff.’
Mr McDonnell and Mr Ashworth also unveiled Labour’s plan for a 4.3 per cent annual average funding increase for health. There would be a real-terms increase in NHS spending of £26bilion by 2024 – £6billion more than the Tories are promising. It would be funded by reversing corporation tax cuts and raising taxes for the wealthiest.
3) Union boss’s blast over plan for more free movement of migrants Labour was at war over immigration last night after one of Jeremy Corbyn’s union backers warned that plans to ‘extend free movement’ could cost the party votes in crucial seats
3) Union boss’s blast over plan for more free movement of migrants
Labour was at war over immigration last night after one of Jeremy Corbyn’s union backers warned that plans to ‘extend free movement’ could cost the party votes in crucial seats.
Labour’s annual conference in September voted to adopt a new policy to ‘maintain and extend free movement’. At the time, the architects of the policy said the idea was to extend free movement ‘beyond the EU’.
A Conservative analysis of the pledge last night suggested that if free movement rights were extended to the rest of the world, net immigration to Britain could soar to three times its current level – jumping from 261,000 a year to 840,000 over the next decade. Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘Under Corbyn’s Labour, immigration would surge, and put huge strain on schools and our NHS. Jeremy Corbyn has no credible plan for how to deal with the consequences of his open borders policy.’
Labour’s exact policy will not be finalised until a manifesto meeting on Saturday, but it is causing divisions within the party’s senior ranks. Len McCluskey, head of the pro-Corbyn Unite union, warned that extending free movement could cost the party support in critical marginal seats in the Midlands and the North, which voted heavily to leave the EU.
‘I don’t think what conference voted for is a sensible approach and I will be expressing that view,’ he said. ‘It’s wrong in my view to have any greater free movement of labour unless you get stricter labour market regulation.’
The Tory figures were produced by analysing the impact of extending free movement to Eastern Europe in 2004 and extrapolating it to the rest of the world.
Labour dismissed the figures. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who pledged this week to tear up laws designed to make life tougher for illegal immigrants, said: ‘This is more fake news from the Conservative Party’s make-believe research department.
‘Unlike the Tories we won’t scapegoat migrants or deport our own Windrush generation citizens.’
4) How McDonnell’s income tax hike would hit 1.3m workers John McDonnell yesterday unveiled plans to put up taxes for 1.3million workers. The shadow chancellor said Labour’s manifesto will ask the richest 5 per cent to ‘pay a little more’
4) How McDonnell’s income tax hike would hit 1.3m workers
John McDonnell yesterday unveiled plans to put up taxes for 1.3million workers.
The shadow chancellor said Labour’s manifesto will ask the richest 5 per cent to ‘pay a little more’.
The 45p income tax threshold would be cut from £150,000 to £80,000 – hitting all those earning more than this amount. Mr McDonnell also said Labour would reintroduce a 50p rate of tax for those on more than £125,000.
He did not say what would happen to national insurance rates for those on more than £80,000.
However there would be no rises in income tax or national insurance for everyone else.
Speaking at an election rally in central London, Mr McDonnell said: ‘As I have said before, income tax rates, national insurance, and VAT will not increase for 95 per cent. It is only the 5 per cent we will ask to pay a little more. We will reduce the threshold for 45p rates to £80,000 and reintroduce the 50p rate for £125,000.’
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said Labour’s plans would result in a tax rise for 1.3million workers and raise up to £7billion a year. However, some of those affected would respond by reducing their taxable incomes, reducing the amount raised.
It said that if no one did this then the 500,000 workers with income between £80,000 and £100,000 would lose an average of £400 a year, while the 50,000 people with income over £500,000 would all lose at least £22,900.
Labour will today vow to close the pay gap between men and women within a decade – 50 years earlier than the Government target. It would roll out a host of measures – including fining firms with gender pay gaps – to ensure women are on an equal footing in the workplace by 2030.