Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemns ‘completely unacceptable’ remarks made by Clive Lewis as he tackles Norfolk issues in Norwich and Great Yarmouth
PUBLISHED: 09:10 22 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:42 22 October 2017
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned remarks made by Clive Lewis as “completely unacceptable” at two events in Norfolk.
Mr Corbyn spoke to more than 400 party members at The Space in Norwich before meeting hundreds more at Christchurch in Great Yarmouth this evening.
He revealed Mr Lewis - who came under fire yesterday after a video of the Norwich South MP telling a man at an event last month to “get on your knees b****” - had contacted him this morning to apologise.
Mr Lewis was meant to host an ‘in conversation’ event with Mr Corbyn in Norwich, but pulled out Saturday morning.
“Clive did not come,” Mr Corbyn said.
“He contacted me this morning and apologised for the remarks he made. He’s made that a definite, public apology. He regrets what he said, I regret what he said, move on.”
The video provoked widespread offence among Labour colleagues, with former deputy party leader Harriet Harman tweeting: “Inexplicable. Inexcusable. Dismayed.”
The chairwoman of the women’s parliamentary Labour Party, Jess Phillips, also took to social media to express concern, tweeting: “Just seen the Clive Lewis video. Obviously I am appalled, just listened to 7 teenage girls speak up about gender inequality. Perhaps I’ll bring them to work on Monday.”
Former cabinet minister Yvette Cooper tweeted: “Agree w Jess. No excuse for saying this, whatever context.”
Labour MP Stella Creasy branded the remarks unacceptable.
She tweeted: “It’s not OK. Even if meant as a joke, reinforces menace that men have the physical power to force compliance.”
It also prompted the minister for women and equalities Justine Greening to write to Mr Corbyn yesterday demanding he condemned the language and alleged a wider issue with misogyny in Labour.
But this evening Mr Corbyn said there was no a specific problem.
He said: “There are people who make remarks they shouldn’t, I jump on that straight away and make sure people are treated with respect at all times in the party. I don’t really need advice from Justine Greening on the Labour party membership, we can deal with that ourselves. I’ll leave her to consider the Conservative party and their issues.”
Mr Corbyn’s visit to the county was, he said, part of a tour around the country.
He said: “I’ve been visiting communities all over the country, I’ve been doing this ever since the general election. What we’re doing is visit and discussion meetings like we did here in Yarmouth.”
He said a wide range of issues had been raised with him by residents, including mental health and education.
“I feel quite strongly about mental health services, the need for ending the stigma surrounding mental health and proper funding for it,” he said.
“Interestingly it was raised both in the public sense in the shortage of specialist beds and in the waiting time for talking therapy treatment. And also the need for more school and college mental health because it’s young people who seem to suffer the most. I’m very determined to give reality to the parity of esteem words that are in the Social Care Act.”
The questions were pertinent as the region’s mental health trust was recently plunged into special measures. Mr Corbyn was also made aware of concerns over the closure of Alderman Swindell Primary School in Great Yarmouth, as well as the issues at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy since it was taken over by the Inspiration Trust.
He said: “I’m not per se in favour of academies anyway, and I think the government saying any school which that gets a bad Ofsted is automatically going to become an academy is wrong and also refusing the local authority in any form the right to open new schools - except if it is an academy or free school - is completely wrong. What we will do is reinstate the opportunity for local education authorities to open normal schools and insist local education authorities are the supervisory body for all schools in their area.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who was also at the event, attended what was then Great Yarmouth Grammar School, now Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.
But when asked what he thought of recent events at the school, he said: “Jeremy’s done enough, he’s covered it.”
Children wearing ‘Save Alderman Swindell’ t-shirts posed for photos with Mr Corbyn. And Emily Payne, a 16-year-old East Norfolk Sixth Form student who studies politics, snapped a selfie with Mr Corbyn.
Her mother, Liz Kiybet, said the Gorleston family was “very political”. And that her mother, Barbara Baughan, was the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate in 1992 - the first woman in Great Yarmouth to stand in a general election.
When asked what his party could offer the people of Norwich and Great Yarmouth Mr Corbyn said: “One is improvements in transport and infrastructure, through rail improvements but also through investment in bus services to improve rural communications.
“Secondly looking at the skill levels and economic needs of Yarmouth and other places. I said in my speech just now about the development of sustainable and renewable energy and technology, which is obviously very important if you look at what is happening to the oil and gas sector, as well as what’s happening in the windfarm sector.
“There’s a huge space of scope there and that’s where regional investment could come in. It’s about keeping people in the area as well so you provide good jobs. We had a very good question from a well-qualified graduate who couldn’t find the work he needed in Yarmouth and was contemplating moving away.
“Surely it’s those people we want to keep in the town.”
He also addressed the problems with universal credit, which had caused some in the town to turn to foodbanks or lose their homes.
“It’s a roll-out area, we believe universal credit to be deeply flawed. The six-week time for payment is excessive and one in five claimants don’t get it in six weeks anyway.
“This means there is terrible levels of hardship, homelessness is created, poverty comes as a result of it, it is simply wrong.
“And so we’ve asked the government to pause it.
“We won the vote in Parliament 299 to nil and we’ll bring the issue back at every conceivable opportunity. The victory we had was an opposition motion so the government says is not binding. The speaker made a very interesting observation about the will of parliament and I think the will of parliament should prevail.”