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Labour attempts to steer campaign back towards NHS after bruising day for Corbyn

Questions about tax and allegations of anti-Semitism continue to dog the Labour Party.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the Labour Party race and faith manifesto at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, north London.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the Labour Party race and faith manifesto at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, north London.

By George Ryan, PA Political Reporter

Jeremy Corbyn will try to steer his party’s campaign back towards the NHS today after a bruising day of questioning about his tax plans and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The Labour leader was accused of not being fit to be prime minister by the Chief Rabbi and was forced to admit that some low-income taxpayers could end up paying more under the party’s manifesto proposals.

The Conservatives will also want to move the focus onto their agenda again after the party was accused by the Muslim Council of Britain of “denial, dismissal and deceit” over Islamophobia within its ranks.

The Labour leader is facing pressure to apologise to the Jewish community after failing to when pressed during a 30-minute grilling on the BBC by veteran journalist Andrew Neil on Tuesday evening.

Later shadow defence secretary Nia Griffth said she is “ashamed” that the party has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism and said Labour now needed to apologise to the Jewish community.

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SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon plays with local children during a visit to the Jelly Tots and Cookies Play Cafe in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire.

Mr Corbyn also faced awkward questions from Mr Neil on tax.

His party has said it will not raise rates of income tax, National Insurance and VAT paid by the lowest-paid 95% of taxpayers and that only the richest 5% will pay more.

But Mr Neil pointed out that Labour’s plans to scrap the marriage allowance, which lets married couples reduce their tax burden by £250 a year, would hit lower-income taxpayers .

Mr Corbyn responded: “But they will also be getting a pay rise when we bring in a living wage. They will also be getting improvement in free nursery provision for two to four-year-olds.”

Meanwhile, Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to warn “there is worse to come” if the Tories win the General Election, at the launch of the party’s manifesto in Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon will urge the next UK Government to up health spending to £136 per person, a total of £35 billion extra – which would equate to an extra £4 billion for Scotland’s NHS.

She will also detail her plans for negotiations with a Labour minority government, including the funding pledges for the NHS which are higher than any other party’s.

I would say absolutely that we need to apologise to our colleagues in my own party who have been very upset and to the whole of the Jewish community as a whole Nia Griffth

Mr Corbyn is set to make “a major statement” on the NHS in Westminister on Wednesday morning and later he will address a climate change rally in Falmouth as he attempts to move the debate away from accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour.

Earlier in the day, Chancellor Sajid Javid struggled to explain – and refused to criticise – Boris Johnson’s use of words like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” to describe Muslim women wearing veils, which he wrote in a column for The Daily Telegraph last year.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a hangar on a visit to the International Aviation Academy, Norwich on Tuesday

Boris Johnson later dismissed criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain and said: “What we do in the Tory Party is when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group then they’re out first bounce.”

Visiting the South West on Wednesday, Mr Johnson will set out plans for a “shared rural network” which would lead to new phone masts being built and existing infrastructure shared between the four mobile phone providers – O2, Three, Vodafone and EE – to strengthen signals in rural areas.

Labour will also pledge on Wednesday to set up Violence Reduction Units to tackle violent crime by understanding its root causes, while the Tories will outline a scheme to boost the number of children being immunised by reminding parents about forthcoming vaccinations.

PA

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