Jeremy Corbyn refuses to be diverted as he pitches for small business vote
Telling the BBC not to ask about Syria is one way of enforcing message discipline…
Jeremy Corbyn has signalled his determination to win the small business vote – by vowing to end the "national scandal" of late payments.
And by doggedly refusing to take a BBC journalist’s question about Syria as he set out his plans.
In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses, the Labour leader said big business was holding back £26bn a year from small suppliers by paying their bills late. He claimed the practice was forcing 50,000 small firms out of business and named some of the UK's biggest firms - including Marks and Spencer - as the worst culprits.
The Labour leader said: “Some of the biggest names in business are holding cash piles that don't actually belong to them. It's a national scandal. And it's stopping businesses from growing and causing thousands to go bust every year. It kills jobs and holds back economic growth.”
Corbyn said Labour would require companies bidding for public sector contracts to pay suppliers within 30 days, if it wins the next general election.
But - as is often the case at press conferences - some hacks had other things on their minds.
In the question and answer session after speech, the BBC’s Mark Lobel wanted to ask “one question on Syria”. The journalist tried three times to get his question in before Corbyn politely told him to shut up:
“I’m really sorry, this is Federation of Small Businesses conference. I’m very happy to do an interview with you afterwards about Syria.”
Corbyn went on to claim that his media team had let it be known there would be no questions on the issue during the press conference. Instead there would be “interviews after” on Syria and other issues.
The Labour leader was backed up by the crowd who had heckled the BBC man and applauded Corbyn for shutting him up.
But journalists at the event claim Corbyn’s team were aware that Syria could come up as a question. They were left wondering whether it was all a cunning ruse to show Jeremy standing up to the dreaded MSM…
Picture by: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images.