Owen Smith has denied he has ever said he would negotiate with the so-called Islamic State, only for David Dimbleby to point out he definitely did.
Smith said he “absolutely didn’t” claim we should negotiate with the terror group on a special edition for Question Time that pitted him against Jeremy Corbyn as the end of the Labour leadership battle is in sight.
Smith said: “I didn’t say we should negotiate with Isis. I absolutely didn’t say that.”
He then repeated the words “what I said was” three times and tried to explain that “the chances are we’d never be able to negotiate with Islamic State”.
But Dimbleby read out the words Smith had used at an earlier hustings on the BBC: “At some point, for us to resolve this, we will need to get people round the table.”
This was met with laughter and boos from the audience.
Corbyn then said he would never negotiate with Isis.
But this left Tweeters with long memories confused, as they recalled Corbyn had said in January he would open “diplomatic back channels” with Isis.
At the time, he told The Andrew Marr Show such channels were maintained with groups like the IRA.
“The British government maintained a channel through the IRA all through The Troubles. I don’t condemn them keeping a back-channel to the Taliban … I think there has to be some route through somewhere,” he said.
“A lot of the commanders [in Isis], particularly in Iraq but to some extent in Syria, are actually former officers in the Iraqi army.”
He added that “dialogue” was “perhaps the wrong word to use” to describe such a channel.