POLITICS
26/11/2019 21:06 GMT

5 Stand-Out Moments From Jeremy Corbyn's Bruising Interview With Andrew Neil

Labour leader was pulled apart on anti-Semitism and Brexit in BBC head-to-head.

Jeremy Corbyn has faced a grilling from veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil in what was one of the most eagerly-anticipated encounters of the general election campaign. 

Before a prime-time TV audience, the Labour leader was scrutinised on anti-Semitism, his party’s tax and spending plans and Brexit as the journalist gave him a torrid half-hour.

The common consensus was that the face-off was not great for the wannabe prime minister. 

 

 

However, at least one other saw Corbyn as operating at a different level.

 

 

Here are five of the most intriguing moments from the interrogation.

 

1. Corbyn refuses four times to apologise for anti-Semitism in his party 

 

In the headline-grabbing opening exchange, Corbyn refused to apologise to the Jewish community after the chief rabbi warned his failure to tackle anti-Semitism made him unfit to be prime minister.

The Labour leader said he does not tolerate anti-Semitism “in any form whatsoever” and called it “vile and wrong” – but he declined four times to apologise in the BBC interview.

Here’s the exchange:

Neil: Many Jews ... 80% of Jews think ... that you’re anti-Semitic. That’s quite a lot of British Jews. I mean wouldn’t you like to take this opportunity tonight to apologise to the British Jewish community for what’s happened?

 

Corbyn: What I’ll say is this. I am determined that our society will be safe for people of all faiths. I don’t want anyone to be feeling insecure in our society and our government will protect every community ...

 

Neil: So no apology?

 

Corbyn: ... against the abuse they receive on the streets, on the trains or in any ...

 

Neil: So no apology for how you’ve handled this?

 

Corbyn: ... or any other form of life.

 

Neil: Try one more time. No apology?

 

Corbyn: No, hang on a minute, Andrew. Can I explain what we’re trying to do?

 

Neil: You have and you’ve been given plenty of time to do that. I asked you if you wanted to apologise and you haven’t.

 

Corbyn: Andrew, I don’t want anyone to go through what anyone has gone through ...

 

Neil: And you’ve said that several times. I understand that, Mr Corbyn, I was asking you about an apology. Let’s move onto Brexit ...

 

2. ‘Would you go on holiday?’

 

Corbyn was quizzed about his plan - if elected - to get a “credible” Brexit deal with the EU and then be neutral in the referendum on the plan he has promised to hold within six months of taking power.

In a brutal question, Neil asked why would the British people want a prime minister that “doesn’t have a view on what really is the greatest peacetime issue that’s faced this country for 70 years”.

Neil continued to probe after the Labour leader said he would be an “honest broker”.

Neil: What would you do during the referendum campaign? Would you go on holiday?

 

Corbyn: No, I’d be running the government.

 

Neil: You wouldn’t take part in the referendum campaign?

 

Corbyn: There are many other things to run as well as that.

 

3. On who would lead the campaign for Labour’s deal to leave if not Corbyn

 

So if Corbyn wasn’t going to lead the campaign in favour of the Corbyn deal, who would? There was no clear answer.

Neil: From the kind of deal you want I think we can agree that Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson are not Boris Johnson are not going to lead the leave campaign.

 

Most of your shadow Cabinet because they’re going to campaign for Remain. Who would lead the leave campaign?

 

Corbyn: Those that support it would be active in it. I’m going to put the view there that this is a credible offer and put that alongside Remain. 

 

4. Funding ‘Waspi women’ pension promise

 

Corbyn was pushed on the Labour promise that it would fund £58 billion compensation to so-called ‘Waspi women’ over their pensions, which was not costed in the party’s manifesto. Another game of cat and mouse ensued.

Neil: Where do you pay for it?

 

Corbyn: First of all let’s deal with the issue ...

 

Neil: No, I know the issue and I understand the issue.

 

Corbyn: But you might but I’m not sure all our viewers will.

 

Neil: But I’d like to know – let’s assume it’s a great issue and you’re right. How do you pay for it?

 

Corbyn: It’s a moral case. Those women ... 

 

Neil: Yeah. How do you pay for it?

 

Corbyn: Those women where short changed by government. Short changed in 2011 by the change in the pension rate. I met a group ...

 

Neil: I’m accepting that Mr Corbyn. I’m asking you – it costs 60 billion, how do you pay for it?

 

Corbyn: Can I explain why?

 

Neil: No, I’d like you to explain how you pay for it.

 

Corbyn: Let me explain why.

 

Neil: Explain how you’ll pay for it. That’s my question. 

 

Corbyn: Let me explain why.

 

Neil: Explain how you’ll pay for it.

 

Corbyn: We’ll pay for it because it has to be paid for.

 

Neil: But how?

 

Corbyn: It has to be paid for. It’s a moral debt.

 

Neil: How will you pay for it?

 

Corbyn: It’s a moral debt that’s owed to those women. 

The back and forth continued, and eventually Corbyn said it would come from government reserves or extra borrowing, and would not pay out the full sum in one year.

 

5. ‘What does that mean?’

 

Corbyn declined to say for certain whether he would give the orders to kill any new leader of so-called Islamic State (IS) if it was not possible to arrest them.

The exchange began by Neil suggesting Corbyn “always gives Britain’s enemies the benefit of the doubt? Galtieri in the Falklands, to Mr Putin when the Kremlin was trying to kill people in Salisbury here in England”.

“You rarely have a good word to say for our allies. You’ve no time for NATO, the alliance that’s kept us safe,” Neil continued.

“Why should people trust you to defend our national interest?”

On any new leader of IS, Corbyn said he would “take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time...”

Neil: What does that mean?

 

Corbyn: ... with all the information. You ask me a hypothetical question in a hypothetical scenario, I’m obviously ...

 

Neil: But it might not be that hypothetical because we know what the Americans have done with al-Baghdadi.  People just don’t think you would do this. 

 

Corbyn: Andrew, I think we also have to look at how we’ve created these dangers as well. That means the point I just raised. The point I just raised is a very serious one.

 

Neil: It doesn’t stop him from killing us.

 

Corbyn: Andrew, you have to look to the future as well.

 

Neil: That’s what I’m doing. You were just looking to the past.