Diane Abbott has denied she has lost credibility as a future home secretary after she struggled to explain how much Labour’s policy of recruiting 10,000 more police officers would cost.
In an interview with LBC this morning, the shadow home secretary appeared to suggest policemen and women would be paid just £30 or £8,000 a year.
She later appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme and defended her performance. “I do know my figures,” she said. “I misspoke.”
“If I didn’t know my figures I wouldn’t have been able to repeat them correctly in six other interviews,” she added.
Labour has said in a press release that the cost of its police recruitment plan will be £300m - which would be paid for be reversing Conservative cuts to capital gains tax (CGT).
Jeremy Corbyn has said he was “not embarrassed in the slightest” by Abbott’s radio gaffe.
And Abbott said the decision of BBC interviewer Jo Coburn to repeatedly quiz her about having “fluffed” her lines “reduces the media credibility”.
But Coburn told Abbott the interview would “reduce your credibility” as a frontbench politician.
“It is embarrassing. It is embarrassing that you don’t know your figures on a key policy. That is hugely embarrassing. It’s not just misspeaking. You just don’t know your figures and you’re not on top of your brief,” she said.
“If you didn’t know those figures, how can you claim to want to be home secretary, in charge of the police forces of England and Wales, do you think you’ve instilled confidence in either the police forces or the voters?”
Abbott, who was made to sit and listen to her LBC interview while live on the BBC, accused Coburn of focusing too much on her performance. “I am concerned you don’t want to talk about policing,” she said.
Following the exchange with Abbott, Coburn went on to press Conservative Dominic Raab about government cuts to the police.
In the original LBC interview, presenter Nick Ferarri expressed surprise at the figures being provided by Abbott. “Has this been thought through?” he asked.
Diane Abbott struggles to explain policy on LBC
Nick Ferrari: “Where will the money come from Diane Abbott, good morning?”
Diane Abbott: “The money will come from reversing some of the tax cuts to the rich that the Tories have pushed through and the tax cut we specificity identified to to pay for 10,000 is the cut in capital gains tax.”
Ferrari: “How much 10,000 police officers cost?”
Abbott: “If we recruit the 10,000 policemen and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300,000.”
Ferrari: “£300,000 for 10,000 police officers? What are you paying them? How much will they cost?”
Abbott: “No. I mean. Sorry. They will cost. It will cost. About £80m. We get to that figure because we anticipate recruiting 25,000 police officers year at least, over a period of four years. We’re looking at what average police wages are generally, but also specifically police wages in London.”