Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he did not promise to write off student debt as he campaigned for the youth vote in the general election.
The Labour leader has faced claims he used students as “election fodder” by indicating he would wipe out the sums they owed for their education.
During the run-up to the June 8 vote, Mr Corbyn said he wanted to look at ways to reduce, ameliorate, lengthen the period of paying it off or “some other means of reducing that debt burden”.
In the interview with NME, he added: “And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”
Mr Corbyn said the comments had not been a “commitment” to erase student debt and admitted the party had not known at the time how much that would cost.
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The Labour leader said the party would be making a statement on the issue in the near future.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I did not make a commitment we would write it off because I couldn’t at that stage. I pointed out we had written the manifesto in a short space of time because there was a surprise election but that we would look at ways of reducing that debt burden, recognising that a lot of it is never going to be collected anyway and try and reduce that burden.”
“We never said we would completely abolish it because we were unaware of the size of it at the time,” he added.
The Labour leader insisted he was “ready for it” if another general election was called and claimed the party was forcing the Government into daily u-turns.
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Dismissing claims by a former chief whip that Tony Blair had ruled out a move to have him deselected, Mr Corbyn insisted selection is done by party members and he had been challenged “once or twice” but had been re-selected.
Asked if that meant he did not owe Mr Blair any thanks, he replied: “I’ve no idea this conversation actually took place. Also, I don’t quite see why people should go to the party leader and say we want to influence what’s going on in the constituency.
“The whole point of democracy is that the people decide.”
As a backbencher, the now Labour leader voted against his own government more than 500 times and there was upset among the rank and file in his Islington North constituency, according to Baroness Armstrong.
But the then Prime Minister was “very clear” that he would not support such a move, the Labour peer insisted.
The peer told Carolyn Quinn on BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour that Mr Corbyn was “the greatest rebel ever” but Mr Blair was reluctant to discipline him as he believed the party could “tolerate that level of difference”.
“I had a couple of folk from Jeremy’s constituency come to see me and say, ‘People are a bit upset with Jeremy always being against the Labour government, what if we try to deselect him?’”.
But she advised them: “You will get no support from the leadership, so don’t bother.”
She added: “The Prime Minister was very clear about that when Jeremy was a backbench MP. And he was right, we shouldn’t have worked to deselect him. But I hope that Jeremy will now reflect on that and I hope that he will be absolutely determined to make sure it doesn’t happen under his watch.”