Jeremy Corbyn was unable to spell out how much Labour’s new childcare policy will cost in an excruciating interview on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
The Labour leader was asked to talk through the figures for Labour’s plan to roll-out free care to all two to four-year-olds, announced by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner this morning.
But he was unable to say how much the policy would cost, asking the BBC’s Emma Barnett: “Can I give you the exact figure in a moment?” before logging on to his iPad amid an uncomfortable silence.
He was pressed by Barnett, who asked whether it was indicative of voters being unable to trust Labour with their money.
“It’s quite troubling, this is a policy you are launching today Mr Corbyn and you don’t know how much it’s going to cost. It hardly inspires the voters,” she said.
Corbyn can be heard sighing, before telling her: “I want to give you an accurate figure.”
He added: “The important thing is that all children get a chance to grow up together. At the moment we have a system which separates out in the sense that the child of wealthy parents may well be able to go to a paid-for pre-school or nursery facility. Others may not get that chance because their parents can’t afford it.”
Angela Rayner had talked through the new policy and costings in detail earlier that morning on the BBC’s Today Programme.
Barnett, who later received a raft of abuse and accusations of bias from Corbyn supporters, stepped in to tell the Labour leader the figures, asking him: “Does that sound about right?”
Corbyn replied: “That does sound correct.”
It was an uncomfortable echo of shadow home secretary Diane Abbott’s failure to set out the cost of Labour’s policy on policing during an LBC interview earlier this month.
It was a sharp wake-up call for Corbyn after he was widely regarded to have performed well under a grilling from Jeremy Paxman during Monday’s TV debates.
He was also quizzed on claims his office is run ‘chaotically’, and whether he remained vice-president of the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament, as listed on the organisation’s website - a position he claimed her resigned when he became Labour leader.
“I am a member of CND, I don’t think I’m the vice-president of it. I’m surprised it’s there,” he said.
Barnett also asked what single policy Corbyn regarded as vital to improving the lives of women.
“Big investment in early years education and education strategy in schools,” the Labour leader replied, but was quick to deny he was linking women to children and focusing on women as mothers.
“Linking girls to educational opportunities. And beyond that it is about encouraging girls to go into science and engineering as well as all the other subjects. It is about saying to girls that you can do anything and getting that message across,” he added.
The Tories were quick to attack Corbyn over the blunder, claiming it showed he was ‘unfit to be Prime Minister.
International development secretary Priti Patel said: “Jeremy Corbyn wants to lead our Brexit negotiations that begin just 11 days after the election.
“But in this shambolic interview he’s made Diane Abbott’s grasp of detail look impressive. Brexit is central to everything – get it wrong and we get everything else wrong.
“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.”