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Labour candidates split on Strictly

Published 19/07/2015

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Latest politics news

Labour's leadership hopefuls united in their backing for the BBC - but admitted contrasting feelings over one of its greatest exports, Strictly Come Dancing.

Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall pledged their love for the long-running dance series, though leadership frontrunner Andy Burnham was less enthusiastic about the subject.

Asked how they would safeguard the future of the BBC, Ms Cooper said: "The BBC is our cultural National Health Service. I think we need to stand up for the BBC against all the assaults and the attacks that are now coming.

"It is about who we are, not going into the sort of market in news we've had in the US, but it is frankly also about standing up for Strictly."

Ms Kendall said: "I am 100% with Yvette on Strictly. The BBC must show it can meet all people's different needs."

Mr Burnham, the former culture secretary, drew ripples of laughter from the hundreds of people packed into a sweltering Camden House in central London when he said: "I think the London hustings has flushed out the biggest split of this leadership contest so far - Liz and Yvette like Strictly, I'll admit I can't stand it."

He added: "How to safeguard the future - we need to make a big argument what it means for our democracy.

"We should be proud in saying it enhances our country and a democracy to have a public service broadcaster committed to impartial news."

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn added: "The Tories are coming after the BBC, big time. They want either to reduce the licence fee, put up a pay wall, bring in advertising, but essentially destroy the principle of a public service broadcaster.

"I think we, as a Labour movement, have to defend the principle of a public service broadcaster that is universally paid for."

The debate came as Culture Secretary John Whittingdale sparked speculation that the BBC may be told to cut back on popular programming - such as talent show The Voice, which competes with shows available on commercial broadcasters - or to reduce its online presence, when he questioned whether the corporation should try to be "all things to all people".

And he raised questions about the future of the licence fee, suggesting that the BBC could switch to a subscription service in the long run.

The Labour leadership will be decided in four weeks' time.

Asked if she would serve in a shadow cabinet led by Mr Corbyn, Ms Kendall said: "I would find it very difficult - if not impossible - to agree with many of the things Jeremy says. I think Jeremy knows that.

"We've just agreed perhaps we might be on Strictly together. Can you imagine it? A waltz? Fantastic."

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