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21 July 2016

Jeremy Corbyn smacks down Owen Smith’s offer of Labour president

The embattled Labour leader likened it to being "director of football". 

By Julia Rampen

To some in the parliamentary party, it might sound like a reasonable offer. Your MPs hate you. Many members love you. Stand down as Labour leader, and become president of the party instead. 

But Jeremy Corbyn has ridiculed the suggestion, which was made by his challenger in the Labour leadership contest, Owen Smith. 

In an interview to be broadcast on BBC Newsnight, he said: “I don’t want to be president of the party. I’m not even sure we should have a president of the party.

“What’s a president for? It sounds a bit like a director of football. So no.”

Describing it as “a very strange thing to offer”, Corbyn said it would require constitutional change: “It’s not his gift to offer unopposed election to anything.”

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Despite his renewed pledge for kinder and gentler politics, Corbyn doesn’t sound like a peacemaker.

But he did revise one particularly controversial position. To many MPs on the Remain campaign, Corbyn’s demand for Article 50 to be invoked the day after the referendum undermined their whole position. 

Asked again about his comments, Corbyn said: “I may not have put that as well as I should have done. My view was, and is, that at some point A50 is going to be invoked, obviously, it has to be.”

He also attempted to distance himself from his supporters’ descriptions of the rebel MPs as Blairites, saying: “I don’t go round calling people Blairites actually because Tony Blair stopped being PM in 2007, it’s quite a long time ago.”

The full interview will be broadcast on Thursday on BBC 2, at 10.30pm.

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