Jeremy Corbyn wins backing from local constituency parties

Owen Smith says a publicly funded NHS would be an absolute red line if he became leader. Picture: Getty Images

Owen Smith says a publicly funded NHS would be an absolute red line if he became leader. Picture: Getty Images

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Jeremy Corbyn has won overwhelming support from local constituency Labour parties in his bid for re-election as party leader.

Mr Corbyn’s campaign team said he had secured the nominations of 285 CLPs, against just 53 for his rival Owen Smith.

The tally compares with last year’s leadership election when he received 152 of the 387 nominations made by CLPs, and will be seen as underlining his position as the clear favourite to win in the ballot of party members which will decide the contest.

A campaign spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who can draw on support from Labour members right across our country. These results further suggest members strongly support Jeremy Corbyn in his bid to remain Labour leader.”

However Mr Smith warned that with the party at its lowest level in the polls since 1982, it faces a heavy defeat at the 2020 general election if it carries on as it is. “We would come back at an era where I don’t think we’d have an NHS and I don’t think we’d have a comprehensive education system, and I don’t think we’d have social security,” he told supporters at a campaign event in Salford. “So it’s not just the legacy of the last Labour government that could be wiped out, it’s the legacy of successive Labour governments, it’s the legacy of working people in this country since the war that could be wiped out.”

In a keynote speech, Mr Smith sought to strengthen his left-wing credentials, insisting a “100 per cent publicly funded NHS” would be an “absolute red line” if he became leader.

He made the promise after being forced to deny he has changed his stance on private sector involvement in the health service, while also accusing the Conservatives of a preparing a “secret plan” to privatise it. Mr Smith said spending on healthcare from the private sector has doubled from £4 billion a year in 2010 under Labour to £8bn a year under the Conservatives.

His comments came as experts warned Mr Corbyn’s flagship policy to create a free-at-the-point-of-use National Education Service (NES), based on the principles of the NHS, would mean billions of additional spending.

As part of the plan to provide free cradle-to-grave learning for all, Mr Corbyn has said he would scrap university tuition fees and guarantee adults a set number of hours per week they could use for education or training.

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