Owen Smith has landed himself in yet another spot of bother — this time for appearing to describe Labour leadership rival Jeremy Corbyn as a “lunatic” during a London rally on Tuesday night.
Smith, who came under intense criticism last week for suggesting he’d be prepared to negotiate with ISIS, has been accused by Corbyn’s camp of “degrading” the leadership contest for saying “what you won’t get with me is some lunatic at the top of the Labour Party.”
The MP for Pontypridd denied that “lunatic” was a reference to the current Labour leader during an appearance on the BBC on Wednesday morning.
“I was talking about me,” he told the Radio 4 Today programme. “I was saying I wasn’t a lunatic, I was talking about myself. I am occasionally a bit colourful with my language… I need to be a bit less colourful.”
Here is a recording of the comments:
This is what Smith said in full (emphasis ours):
“We’ve got to get two million people who actually voted Tory, 12 months ago, to vote Labour, in 106 seats, and what you won’t get with me is some lunatic at the top of the Labour Party. You’ll have someone who tries to form a coherent narrative about what’s wrong with Britain.”
And this is how Twitter users reacted:
In space of a few hours Smith has called Corbyn a lunatic and driven millions of Labour voters into the hands of UKIP. Competence candidate?
— Robin Corbyn’s Vest (@WarmongerHodges) August 24, 2016
Owen Smith has plenty of material to criticise Corbyn with. Resorting to calling him a ‘lunatic’ shows he shouldn’t be the Leader either.
— Fergal McFerran (@FergalMcFerran) August 24, 2016
In a statement emailed to Business Insider on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for Corbyn called on Smith to apologise to sufferers of mental illness. The full statement read:
“Owen Smith has degraded this contest by descending into personal abuse. He should apologise to people suffering with mental illness, many of whom would have been dismayed and upset to hear such offensive language used in public by a Labour politician.
“He should also withdraw his remark, and spend time with people suffering from mental health problems to develop some sensitivity in his use of language. This is simply not the language that someone standing to lead our party should use, and it injects an ugly tone into this contest that no Labour member wants to see.”
Smith also appeared on the BBC Breakfast show, where he issued an apology for the remark but again denied it was in reference to the current Labour leader. “I was asked a question about me and somebody talking about me running around like a lunatic,” he said.
“If anybody has been offended by the use of that word I apologise, I was trying to say that my policies were sensible and I would be a sensible leader of the Labour party. I certainly wasn’t talking about Jeremy Corbyn.”
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