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Constituency Labour parties back Jeremy Corbyn by 285 nominations to 53

Published 15/08/2016

Owen Smith will accuse the Tories of a secret plan to privatise the NHS as the battle for control of the Labour Party grows
Owen Smith will accuse the Tories of a secret plan to privatise the NHS as the battle for control of the Labour Party grows

Jeremy Corbyn has won overwhelming backing of local constituency Labour parties (CLP) in his bid for re-election as party leader.

Mr Corbyn's campaign team said he had secured the nominations of 285 CLPs, against just 53 for his rival Owen Smith.

The tally compares with last year's leadership election when he received 152 of the 387 nominations made by CLPs, and will be seen as underlining his position as the clear favourite to win in the ballot of party members which will decide the contest.

A campaign spokesman said: "Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who can draw on support from Labour members right across our country. These results further suggest that Labour members strongly support Jeremy Corbyn in his bid to remain Labour leader."

However Mr Smith warned that with the party at its lowest level in the polls since 1982, it faces a heavy defeat at the 2020 general election if it carries on as it is.

"We would come back at an era where I don't think we'd have an NHS and I don't think we'd have a comprehensive education system, and I don't think we'd have social security," he told supporters at a campaign event in Salford.

"So it's not just the legacy of the last Labour government that could be wiped out, it's the legacy of successive Labour governments, it's the legacy of working people in this country since the war that could be wiped out."

In a keynote speech, Mr Smith sought to strengthen his left-wing credentials, insisting that a "100% publicly funded NHS" would be an "absolute red line" if he became leader.

He made the promise after being forced to deny he has changed his stance on private sector involvement in the health service, while also accusing the Conservatives of a preparing a "secret plan" to privatise it.

Mr Smith said spending on healthcare from the private sector has doubled from £4 billion a year in 2010 under Labour to £8 billion a year under the Conservatives.

He attacked Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for making "such a Horlicks of so much of the NHS", labelling it a "real error of judgment" from Prime Minister Theresa May to keep him in post.

"Just a few weeks ago, two days after Jeremy Hunt was reappointed, we saw in the new business plan for the NHS new plans, secret plans in truth, to offer greater private provision," he said.

"It said there is very clear under-utilisation of private sector in the NHS and it set about putting in place a new work programme that would guarantee that more clinical services were being undertaken by private sector providers in the NHS.

"Their intention is now absolutely explicit and the evidence of the change they want to put in place is right before our eyes."

His comments came as experts warned that Mr Corbyn's flagship policy to create a free-at-the-point-of-use National Education Service (NES), based on the principles of the NHS, would mean billions of additional spending.

As part of the plan to provide free cradle-to-grave learning for all, Mr Corbyn has said he would scrap university tuition fees and guarantee adults a set number of hours per week they could use for education or training.

However, Luke Sibieta, director of education and skills at the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank, said abolishing university tuition fees in England would come "with quite a price tag".

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme it would have the immediate effect of adding about £9 billion to government borrowing overnight, with a long-run effect of about £6 billion, taking into account loans which are not repaid.

Mr Corbyn has acknowledged that the scheme would be expensive to implement, but insists it could be funded through corporate taxation and tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

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