Labour leadership: Corbyn and Smith clash over party disunity

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith taking part in the hustings in Cardiff.
  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and hopeful Owen Smith have taken part in a bruising hustings contest in Cardiff.

Both men drew cheers, boos and heckles from the crowd of Labour supporters, as they addressed several issues including party disunity, fighting the Conservatives, the economy, the future of Trident and winning the next General Election.

The contest turned particularly nasty when the issue of party disunity was brought up.

Smith was booed and heckled as he was accused of being part of a coup against Corbyn - which he denied.

He accused Corbyn of presiding over an increasingly divided Labour Party.

Corbyn insisted that Labour was doing well in the polls and challenging the Tories until a "wave of resignations" from shadow cabinet members.

He insisted that he was the best person to lead the party as he appealed for members to get behind him.

Smith insisted that the Conservatives were "riding roughshod" over Labour because of Corbyn's weak leadership.

He pointed out that Corbyn is lagging behind new Prime Minister Theresa May in the popularity stakes and that Ukip are making inroads in many Labour heartlands.

He added that in his opinion the party lacked credibility as a government in waiting.

There were clear divisions over Labour's approach to Brexit, with Smith leaving little doubt that he blames Corbyn for his lacklustre campaigning in the EU referendum.

He said that he would offer a second referendum to the British people based on what kind of deal the current government can negotiate with the EU.

But Corbyn did not commit to another vote and instead said that he was in favour of keeping strong ties with Europe because, he said: "Economic integration between the UK and the rest of Europe is essential".

Concluding the 90-minute debate, Smith said that the UK was "in crisis", adding: "We've seen wages collapse, we've seen job security collapse, we've seen the grossest levels of inequality this country has seen in a century. Our NHS is crumbling, Labour's legacy across Britain is being wiped out.

"At the same time, the Labour Party - when we are at our most-needed in Britain - is in crisis ourselves, divided and in danger of being defeated".

The 90-minute Labour husting took place at Cardiff's All Nations Centre. Credit: Pool

Corbyn insisted that Labour "can win a general election and we've been winning elections all this year".

He said that the party lost in 2015 "because we were not offering a clear enough alternative to the British people".

"It's not good enough to go on the doorstep and say 'We'll make less cuts than they will, we'll have austerity but it will be austerity-lite'," said Corbyn. "We've got to offer something different."

He was enthusiastically clapped as he said: "Let us have faith in ourselves, our community, our party and our ability to deliver real social justice all across this country."

The two men shook hands before leaving the stage.

Below are the future Labour hustings events:

  • Gateshead: 7pm to 9.30pm Thursday 11 August

  • Nottinghamshire: Wednesday 17 August

  • Birmingham: Thursday 18 August

  • Glasgow: Thursday 25 August

  • London: Thursday 1 September