JEREMY Corbyn’s leadership was under renewed pressure tonight as senior Labour figure attacked a rally held in Scotland to promote the politics of the hard left UK party leader.
Labour grandee Lord Foulkes of Cumnock has written to Mr Corbyn claiming the Edinburgh event held in the leader’s honour undermined the party’s campaign for the Scottish elections.
Lord Foulkes, the chairman of the Scottish Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party, complained that participants praised the SNP but failed to mention the Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.
His complaint came as the Labour backbencher Dan Jarvis made a high-profile speech fuelling speculation he might make a bid for the leadership.
With polls suggesting the public does not see Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister material, Mr Jarvis underlined the importance of the party transforming itself into an organisation that can beat the Conservatives.
In an email to Mr Corbyn, Lord Foulkes outlined his objections to the #JC4PM rally, which saw performances by the singer Charlotte Church and the comedians Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel and Jo Caulfield at the Festival Theatre.
With reports of the event suggesting participants praised the SNP and indicated their support for Scottish independence, Lord Foulkes said those campaigning for Scottish Labour felt like “bursting into tears”.
Lord Foulkes’s email said: “Dear Jeremy, I understand the roadshow under your banner was in Edinburgh yesterday and the so called comedians, Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel, not only praised the SNP but did not even mention our Scottish Leader, Kezia Dugdale.
“Who was responsible for arranging this, did anyone brief the performers, were Kezia and Ian Murray (the Shadow Scottish Secretary) consulted?
“For those of us fighting hard in the Scottish Parliament election campaign it is enough to make us burst into tears that such clowns are undermining our campaign in your name. Can I have an assurance that there will be no more of this and you will take these performers to task?”
The Labour MSPs Neil Findlay and Elaine Smith spoke at the Corbyn roadshow, but it was the performances of Mr Hardy and Mr Steel, which caused most comment on social media.
According to reports on news website BuzzFeed, Mr Steel opened his act with the line: “I know it’s a Labour event but I’m very impressed with the SNP.”
Mr Hardy, who is known for his appearances on Radio 4’s News Quiz, said that if he lived in Scotland he would vote for independence.
A speaker from the Stop the War coalition praised First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for joining Mr Corbyn at an anti-Trident rally two weeks ago, adding that the SNP are “very popular” and “you all nearly won your independence vote”.
Yesterday Ms Sturgeon used the event to attack Ms Dugdale at First Minister’s Questions.
The SNP leader said: “Apparently a Vote Labour event was held in Edinburgh last night. Kezia Dugdale should read the reports about it because, apparently, her name was not mentioned once in three hours, although speaker after speaker lined up to praise the SNP. “
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said the event was nothing to do with the Labour leader. The event’s organiser Crispin Flintoff was unavailable for comment.
Ahead of the event, the organisers were keen to emphasise that #JC4PM was not a Labour event and was not endorsed or supported by the party. Organisers said they aimed to rally supporters from other parties on the basis that Mr Corbyn has cross-party appeal, particularly in Scotland.
Meanwhile speculation that Mr Jarvis has ambitions to topple Mr Corbyn were encouraged by the backbench MP’s speech made at the think-tank Demos.
The former paratrooper said Labour had to become “a party that beats the government” and called on the party to be “more radical than ever before” in tackling inequality.
Mr Jarvis - who chose not to run in last year’s leadership contest - refused to be drawn on his ambitions to lead the party.
Insisting that he wanted to embrace Mr Corbyn’s invitation to debate Labour’s future, he said: “We’ve lost two general elections fairly badly, I don’t want to lose a third election. I’m very comfortable with the decision I took in May last year.”
Labour’s failure to “get to grips with the longer-term economic crisis” meant the party needed to be “more radical than ever before”, he said, while economic policy should be “more radical than we had under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband”.
“Put simply, Labour needs to be tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality,” he said.