LONDON — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to answer questions on Syria in a press conference on Tuesday morning, despite his press team telling journalists that he would be happy to do so just minutes before.
In a speech to The Federation of Small Businesses on Tuesday morning, Corbyn said he would not be taking questions on subjects other than small businesses, but later answered questions on the Great Repeal Bill and opinion polls.
The Labour leader was at the FSB to launch a host of new business policies.
However, the press conference took a bizarre turn when the audience booed as BBC journalist Mark Lobel tried to ask Corbyn for his views on the Syrian conflict.
The Labour leader has previously stated his opposition to the recent attacks by the US on Assad’s forces.
Corbyn’s team had given journalists permission to ask about what action UK government should take against Russia just minutes before the press conference got underway.
In an unusual move, journalists were told that they could only ask one question each on individual topics, with the BBC claiming Syria.
However, the Labour leader left his podium and moved to the front of the stage to tell Lobel that he would not answer any questions on the matter and journalists would instead have to wait until after the press conference.
Some members of the audience booed Lobel as he asked the question, with one heard saying “f— off” as he spoke.
The Labour leader went on to reluctantly answer a question about opinion polls that show Labour trailing the Conservatives by large margins. An audience member said “fucking hell” as the Mirror’s Ben Glaze asked the question.
Speaking to Business Insider afterwards, a spokesperson for Corbyn said that the Labour leader took the decision to not answer the question on Syria as “the mood of the audience” was against it.
“They wanted to hear more detail about our offer for small businesses. In response, we focused the questions on those topics. We did multiple interviews on Syria in broadcast interviews afterwards,” they said.
During the press conference, Corbyn announced a series of measures that he would implement as prime minister to protect small businesses.
These include going to “war” with big companies that make late payments to smaller suppliers and scrapping the government plans to make small to medium-sized companies produced quarterly reports.
Corbyn’s spokesperson added that “lots more” policies will be announced in the coming weeks.
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