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Corbyn questions civil service neutrality after claims he’s ‘too frail’ to be PM

Press Association logoPress Association 29/06/2019 By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
Jeremy Corbyn wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Jeremy Corbyn spoke out after a newspaper report (PA) © Victoria Jones Jeremy Corbyn spoke out after a newspaper report (PA)

Jeremy Corbyn has raised concerns over the neutrality of the civil service after officials reportedly briefed a newspaper with allegations that he may have to stand down as Labour leader over supposed health issues.

The Labour leader called for an investigation to find out which mandarins told The Times there are apparently growing concerns about his physical and mental health.

An article published in the newspaper on Saturday quoted two people described as being “senior civil servants”, with one suggesting there are concerns in Whitehall that Mr Corbyn has become “too frail and is losing his memory”.

Mr Corbyn, 70, called the report a “farrago of nonsense” and described himself as a “very fit, very health, very active person”.

“The idea that civil servants should be briefing a newspaper against an elected politician, against a prospective government, is something that should be very concerning to a lot of people,” he said.

“The civil service has to be independent. It has to be non-political and has to be non-judgmental of the politicians they have a duty to serve.

“I would make that very clear if we were elected to government. We have a very clear framework of things we want to do in this country on housing, education, health and the environment, and so many things.

“We would explain those to our colleagues in the civil service and expect them to carry out those policies. That is the way British democracy must work.

“There must be an investigation into which senior civil servants are spreading fictitious information to the press and in the process compromising the integrity of the civil service.”

The Times’ front page story reported that officials are concerned Mr Corbyn’s health may force him to stand down as Labour leader and suggested he is being “propped up” by his advisers.

The newspaper quoted a senior civil servant as saying: “There is a real worry that the Labour leader isn’t up to the job physically or mentally but is being propped up by those around him.

“There’s growing concern that he’s too frail and is losing his memory. He’s not in charge of his own party.”

Labour strenuously denied the claims, saying suggestions that Mr Corbyn does not make his own decisions are “laughable” and “demonstrably false”.

A spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn leads an active life, running and cycling regularly, and is in good health.

“Reports to the contrary are scurrilous and a transparent attempt to undermine Labour’s efforts to redistribute wealth and power from the few to the many.”

Mr Corbyn also received backing in the matter from former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell.

He tweeted: “I’d rather have my country run by democratically elected Jeremy Corbyn than the smug, self regarding, incompetent Whitehall officials that briefed this to the Times.

“Get these vile Sir Humphry’s out!”

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