Jeremy Corbyn tells supporters to stop 'unacceptable' abuse of BBC journalist
Jeremy Corbyn has told his supporters to stop the “unacceptable” abuse of a journalist who tripped him up on how much Labour’s childcare policies would cost.
The Labour leader was this morning unable to answer Emma Barnett’s questions on the costings of the party’s plan to extend free childcare entitlement for children under the age of four.
Mr Corbyn apologised for the gaffe this afternoon, and condemned the bile being targeted at Ms Barnett online, some of which has come from accounts which purportedly support the Labour leader.
“It is totally and absolutely and completely unacceptable for anyone to throw abuse at anyone else,” he said at the launch of Labour’s race and faith manifesto this afternoon.
“Under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone throw personal abuse at anyone else because they’re doing the job that they’re employed to do. And I will not tolerate it under any circumstances.”
Some of the abuse aimed at Ms Barnett on Twitter has been anti-Semitic, while others have accused her of being biased against Mr Corbyn.
On Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning, Ms Barnett asked how much Labour’s plans would cost.
He replied: “It would cost, um... It would obviously cost a lot...
“I'll give you the figure in a moment... Can we come back to this?"
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell came to the defence of his ally Mr Corbyn, pointing out that the Conservatives had not released any costings for their manifesto plans.
Mr Corbyn, though, accepted responsibility for his mistake.
He told the event in Watford: “I didn’t have the exact figure in front of me, so I was unable to answer that question – for which, obviously, I apologise.
"But I don’t apologise for what’s in the manifesto and I will explain exactly what the cost is: it’s £4.8bn by the end of the Parliament and it means that one million children will get free childcare, 30 hours per week, between the years of two and four.”
Labour intends to end means-testing of free childcare for two-year-olds and to extend the 30-hours-a-week provision to all three and four-year-olds, not just those whose parents are in work.
Mr Corbyn said: “This will mean that all of our children will get the chance to go to nursery, to go to pre-school and to develop socially with each other. The present system of pre-school allocation is unsatisfactory and often very unfair.”
The Conservatives seized on this morning’s mistake, tying it to an earlier moment in the election campaign when Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott struggled to explain the cost of Labour’s plan to hire 10,000 more police officers.
“In this shambolic interview he’s made Diane Abbott’s grasp of detail look impressive,” said International Development Secretary Priti Patel.
“This car crash interview shows Jeremy Corbyn isn’t up to the job of leading our country through the challenges ahead – he is simply too big a risk to take.”