Jeremy Corbyn: I’m a pragmatist, not an extremist

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty Images
Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty Images
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LABOUR leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at the “hysteria” about his policies and insisted that he is a pragmatic politician.

His comments came as Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of the Blairite revolution in the party in the late 1990s, has warned that a Corbyn leadership will put Labour in “mortal danger”.

However, in a boost to the hard-left candidate’s campaign, Hobbit actor Martin Freeman, Dr Watson in the acclaimed Sherlock series, has lent his support to Mr Corbyn, describing him as “impressive”. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Mr Freeman, who appeared in a Labour party political broadcast in the election, said Mr Corbyn would be his preference in Labour’s leadership race.

He added: “I happen to think that he is the most impressive one of the four. I do.”

After criticism of his plans to provide “people’s quantitive easing” and sack the Governor of the Bank of England if he refuses to print money for public projects Mr Corbyn has gone on the defensive about his policies.

He also came under fire for his proposal for women-only carriages on trains which led opponents to accuse him of promoting segregation.

“Despite the barrage of attacks, hysteria and deliberate misrepresentation of the positions my campaign has put forward, it is our message which is resonating,” he wrote. “What is extreme is not the popular proposals we are putting forward but this government’s cynical attempt to pay for a crisis on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable.”

He added: “This was a crisis brought about by rampant speculation in the City and the deference of successive governments to that corporate lobby.”

He insisted he wants to defeat the Tories in 2020 with “people’s politics”, arguing: “Our party has been reinvigorated and the Tories should be in no doubt: we will use the surge in progressive politics to pursue them and focus on a massive growth in campaigning politics.”

However, Lord Mandelson said Mr Corbyn’s proposal to “print money, state ownership of major industries, unilateral disarmament and quitting Nato will make the party unelectable”.

He said: “Our party is in mortal danger – we need to save it again.”

He added that victory for Corbyn “would be a very bad outcome for anyone who cares about fairness in our society or Britain’s place in the world.”

The next Labour leader is due to be announced on 12 September. In the last Yougov poll Mr Corbyn was 32 points ahead of nearest rival the shadow health minister Andy Burnham, with Blairite Liz Kendall and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also in the race.

Mr Burnham focused his campaign yesterday on the need for reform of the House of Lords which he dubbed “a national embarrassment” after Prime Minister David Cameron named 45 new peers including former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling.

Meanwhile Ms Cooper admitted the last Labour government did “too little” to safeguard civil liberties in the UK, criticising Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for being “too reluctant to introduce checks and balances as strong as new terrorism powers”.