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Jeremy Corbyn shrugs off Boris Johnson jibes and vows ‘serious debate’

The Foreign Secretary called the Labour leader a “mutton-headed old mugwump”.

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to avoid “name-calling” in the General Election campaign, after Boris Johnson launched an all-out attack on the Labour leader, branding him a “mutton-headed old mugwump” who would be a threat to national security.

In a round of media interviews, the Foreign Secretary said the Labour leader had “no grasp of the need for this country to be strong in the world” and questioned how he would respond to the “semi-deranged” regime in North Korea.

He also warned the UK would be “totally stiffed” in Brexit negotiations if Mr Corbyn was dealing with Brussels.

Labour fought to keep the election agenda on domestic policy, highlighting plans to build a million homes, including at least 500,000 council houses.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron unveiled a commitment to end rough sleeping in Britain, promising to reverse the Government’s withdrawal of housing benefit from under-21s, which he said was fuelling a homelessness “scandal”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a Brexit setback as German chancellor Angela Merkel said the UK had “illusions” over how withdrawal negotiations would proceed.

Mrs Merkel told the German Parliament talks on a future trade relationship could not begin until progress is made on issues including the UK’s “divorce bill”, which has been estimated at around £50 billion.

Her comments put her at odds with Mr Johnson, who insisted Britain will not pay any bill before “substantive” negotiations start.

Mr Johnson used an article in The Sun to warn voters not to be complacent about the dangers of a Corbyn victory in the June 8 poll.

“The biggest risk with Jeremy Corbyn is that people just don’t get what a threat he really is,” said the Foreign Secretary. “They say to themselves: he may be a mutton-headed old mugwump, but he is probably harmless.”

Responding to the comments during a campaign visit to Harlow in Essex, Mr Corbyn said: “We’re eight days into the election campaign and the Tories have reduced to personal name calling. I’ve never been involved in that and never will be.

“We’re in this election because we have a serious debate to be held on all the issues facing this country, such as housing, schools, health… We approach this in a responsible, serious way, I leave that kind of language to others.”

Mr Corbyn promised a country that is “properly housed”, as he unveiled research showing Labour councils have built an average of nearly 1,000 more homes since 2010 than their Tory counterparts.

“We will build a million homes over the period of a Parliament, half of which will be council and housing association for rent and be totally affordable, because that is the Labour way.”

Campaigning in Lib Dem target seat Cambridge, Mr Farron said his party would stop rough sleeping by reinstating housing benefit for under-21s, increasing funding for local authorities and putting long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.

As a new poll suggested Labour had narrowed the gap with Conservatives but remained 16 points adrift, Mr Corbyn insisted his party could win the election.

“The mood I’m picking up on the streets is very, very different. It’s one of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm and I’m loving every minute of it,” he told the BBC.

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