Civil servants briefing journalists about Jeremy Corbyn’s “frail” health is “inappropriate and unacceptable”, Number 10 has said.
Theresa May waded into the row after a report in the Times newspaper on Saturday included anonymous quotes from civil servants voicing fears about the Labour leader’s wellbeing.
Civil servants were reported to be questioning Corbyn’s mental and physical fitness to serve as prime minister, adding it was a “real worry” Corbyn was being “propped up by those around him”.
One official was quoted as saying: “There’s growing concern that he’s too frail and is losing his memory. He’s not in charge of his own party.”
Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, May’s most senior civil servant, will write to the Labour leader this week after shadow frontbencher Jon Trickett demanded he launch an inquiry into how the information was leaked.
The PM’s official spokesman told journalists on Monday: “Impartiality is one of thew fund values of the civil service and underpins its ability to effectively serve the government of the day.
“It would clearly be inappropriate and unacceptable for comments of this sort to have been made or briefed to the press.
“The cabinet secretary will be writing to the leader of the opposition shortly.”
Labour has strenuously denied claims that Corbyn has suffered a mini-stroke and is struggling with health problems.
In a letter to Sedwill, Trickett said the Times reporting offered “a credible account of conversations at a senior level in the civil service about the leader of the opposition”
He added: “The premise of these conversations is the allegation that Mr Corbyn’s health is poor. This is manifestly untrue.
“Discussion of these matters, based on false assumptions, should not be taking place. Worse, it is without precedent in my experience that any high-level discussion about senior politicians, let alone the leader of the Opposition, should be shared with a newspaper.”
Trickett also demanded a meeting with the civil service chief “to discuss this deeply concerning development”.
Unite boss Len McCluskey, a key ally of Corbyn’s, went on the offensive on Sunday, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr show the Times report was “fake news” and the journalists behind it “should be ashamed of themselves”.