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Diane Abbott struggles to do the sums in interview on police officer plans

Ms Abbott’s assessment of how many new officers would be recruited in one year ranged from 25,000 to 250,000.

Labour’s Diane Abbott has given a stumbling explanation of how the party would fund its plans for 10,000 extra police in an interview that left her struggling to do the sums live on air.

The shadow home secretary’s first attempt to come up with the bill for the policy would have left officers earning £30 and the second go put them on £8,000.

Ms Abbott’s assessment of how many new officers would be recruited in one year ranged from 25,000 to 250,000.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News the policy would cost £300 million and denied Ms Abbott’s fumbling had caused embarrassment.

“She corrected the figure and that’s the figure and it will be paid for by not going ahead with the cuts in capital gains tax,” he said.

Asked if it was embarrassing that Ms Abbott got the figures wrong, he said: “Not at all. We have corrected the figure and it will be absolutely clear now, today and in the manifesto.

“I’m not embarrassed in the slightest.”

The gaffe was quickly seized on by the Conservatives, who claimed it showed that Labour’s sums “don’t add up”.

Labour’s Diane Abbott said she “mis-spoke” when she gave a string of incorrect figures during a radio interview about her new policing policy.

The shadow cabinet minister told BBC Two’s Daily Politics: “I do know my figures. I did seven interviews that morning and that was the seventh and I mis-spoke but I do know my figures.”

Asked if she had been guessing the figures, she replied: “I knew the figures because I have repeated them many times this morning.”

Ms Abbott paused and stumbled repeatedly through the awkward exchanges with LBC’s Nick Ferrari.

“Well, if we recruit the 10,000 police men and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300,000.”

Ferrari replied: “£300,000 for 10,000 police officers? How much are you paying them?”

Ms Abbott replied: “No, I mean, sorry, they will cost, it will cost about, about £80 million.”

“About £80 million? How do you get to that figure?” he said.

Ms Abbott answered: “We get to that figure because we anticipate recruiting 25,000 extra police officers a year at least over a period of four years.

“And we are looking at both what average police wages are generally but also specifically police wages in London.”

Starting salaries for police officers in England and Wales range from £20,000 to £23,000.

Ms Abbott said that in the first year of the scheme the party expected to recruit 250,000 policemen.

She said: “The figures are that the additional cost in year one, when we anticipate recruiting about 250,000 policemen, will be £64.3 million.”

When Ferrari queried the figure of 250,000 policemen, Ms Abbott responded: “And women.”

Challenged again on the figure, she said: “No, we are recruiting two thousand and – perhaps – two hundred and fifty.”

Ferrari asked: “So where did 250,000 come from?”

Ms Abbott responded: “I think you said that, not me.”

He replied: “I can assure you you said that, because I wrote it down.”

Ms Abbott then said: “What I am saying about the cost is that in year one, obviously, we are getting ready to recruit. But in year two, the cost will be £64.3 million. In year three, the cost will be £139.1 million. Year four the cost will be £217 million. And year five, the cost will be £298 million. And that can be amply covered by reversing the cuts in capital gains tax.”

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