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Owen Smith urges Labour on Corbyn debate live broadcasts

Published 02/08/2016

Owen Smith is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership in a postal ballot ending on September 24
Owen Smith is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership in a postal ballot ending on September 24

Owen Smith's team has asked the Labour Party to ensure all his leadership contest debates with Jeremy Corbyn are broadcast live by the media and, if possible, on television.

It comes after the Labour leader, who has been highly critical of "mainstream media" coverage, pulled out of a Channel 4 News hustings on Monday which Mr Smith then attended alone.

The pair are due to take part in a series of leadership hustings in the run-up to the conclusion of the contest and declaration of the winner on September 24.

Just one of the official debates scheduled by the party is due to be broadcast on television - on August 17 in Nottinghamshire by the BBC - while the Guardian will be hosting a London hustings on September 1.

Labour has reportedly proposed events with ITV in August and Sky in September.

Mr Smith's campaign issued the call while claiming Mr Corbyn and his team pulled out of a Wednesday meeting with the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) to discuss the hustings timetable.

It is thought the leader's camp disputes this and was due to send shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Momentum chair Jon Lansman, but was told by the NEC the meeting would be cancelled because Mr Corbyn could not attend personally.

Mr Smith's campaign manager, Kate Green MP, has written to Labour general secretary Iain McNicol to express her disappointment that Mr Corbyn could not attend Wednesday's meeting.

"We were more than prepared to make amendments to Owen's extremely busy diary in order to meet to discuss an issue as important as the hustings timetable," she wrote.

Ms Green claimed Mr Corbyn's decision to hold a rally rather than attending the Channel 4 News event meant he was ignoring party advice that both Labour-scheduled hustings and debates arranged by broadcasters form part of the official timetable.

"You have made it clear to both campaigns since July 22 that Labour Party hustings meetings and third-party broadcast debates together formed part of the official debates timetable," she wrote.

"It is unfortunate that the other campaign is now choosing to ignore this.

"You have said that the procedures committee will now be given the opportunity to consider potential changes to the overall hustings timetable when it meets this Thursday.

"Unfortunately, this will be too late to affect Thursday's meeting in Cardiff.

"However, given recent events - and the possibility that future media events will similarly not be attended by the other campaign - I would ask that the procedures committee urgently reconsider the format of the remaining Labour Party hustings so that these are broadcast live through as many broadcasters as possible in order to maximise opportunities for members and supporters to hear from the candidates."

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