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Jeremy Corbyn rallies Labour ahead of polls as he vows to tackle inequality

Published 03/05/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has insisted there is not a 'huge problem' with anti-Semitism in Labour
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has insisted there is not a 'huge problem' with anti-Semitism in Labour
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has insisted there is not a "huge problem" with anti-Semitism in Labour

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted Labour will not lose seats in Thursday's local elections and accused the media of being "obsessed" with his leadership in the wake of the party controversy over anti-Semitism.

Speaking in London on Monday he said that "the anti-Semitism issue is being dealt with" by the Independent investigation into racism within Labour led by former Liberty chief Shami Chakrabarti.

The opposition leader refused to answer when asked repeatedly at a campaign poster launch in Elephant and Castle whether he thought the row, sparked by online comments from Bradford MP Naz Shah, was an attempt to destabilise his leadership.

And he said he would carry on if there was a challenge to his control of the party after the elections for councils and the London mayor, amid reports some Labour MPs are ready to mobilise against him.

Mr Corbyn: "It is time, quite honestly, that many in the golden circle of the media establishment actually got out a bit and listened to what people are saying.

"I think many in the media are obsessed with this rather than what they should be obsessed with, which is the devastating crisis of inequality in our society."

He added: "I don't know who these Labour MPs are but I would advise every member of the party, including our MPs, (to) get out there on the doorstep and campaign, we have two days to go."

Thursday's elections will provide the first national test of Mr Corbyn's leadership as Labour critics insist the party must make gains, with former shadow cabinet minister Michael Dugher suggesting a benchmark of another 400 seats.

But experts have forecast that the party could lose hundreds of seats in England - and is apparently on course for another difficult night in Scotland and a tough fight in Wales where devolved governments are up for election.

Mr Corbyn's strongest hope of a headline-grabbing victory lies with Sadiq Khan wresting back the London mayoralty after eight years of Tory Boris Johnson at City Hall.

The Labour leader spoke on Monday as he unveiled Labour's election poster, which reads: "Elections are about taking sides. Labour is on yours."

He told reporters: "We are not going to lose seats, we are looking to gain seats where we can."

Asked whether he would stand in an election if there was a challenge to his leadership, Mr Corbyn told the BBC: "I'm here, I'm going on. Of course I would."

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott, a close Corbyn ally, suggested the leader would be able to see off any challenge.

Dismissing rumours of a coup attempt as "silly talk", Ms Abbott told the BBC: "We know from the polling that he still has very strong support from Labour Party members. He got 60% of the vote in the leadership election last summer. There's no reason to believe that if there was a leadership election tomorrow he wouldn't get 60%."

Ms Abbott insisted Labour was "making steady progress towards 2020".

Asked if she thought the party could hold on to all its seats on Thursday, she said: " I think we are going to get the very best result that we can. I think setting arbitrary targets - like saying Labour has got to win 400 or 500 seats - is just silly."

On the controversy over anti-Semitism among Labour ranks, Ms Abbott said: "Of course there's anti-Semitism in society as a whole and it would be strange if there was none of that reflected in the party, but I'm confident Shami Chakrabarti is looking into it and we will have recommendations to take us forward.

"The Labour Party has always had some of the strongest and bravest fighters against racism and anti-Semitism and I'm not sure how they must feel being told by journalists that somehow their party is riddled with anti-Semitism."

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