Jeremy Corbyn has defended his party’s decision to share leaked documents on the NHS despite them being linked to a Russian interference campaign.
The Labour leader used the classified documents detailing trade talks between US and UK officials as evidence of what he said were “secret talks” to sell off the NHS.
“The uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters,” Mr Corbyn told a news conference last week.
Reddit, the forum where the documents first emerged in October, has now suspended dozens of accounts over the leak, and says it believes it was “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia“.
Speaking after serving coffee and Welsh cakes at a cafe in Barry, Mr Corbyn said: “This is such nonsense.
“When we released the documents, at no stage did the prime minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward, and if there has been no discussion with the USA about access to our health markets, if all that is wrong, how come after a week they still haven’t said that?
“The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British government was doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the USA and also why the prime minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time.
“We obtained those documents, we believe those documents to be correct and nobody until yesterday had denied the correctness of those documents.”
The Labour Party has refused to give any indication about the sourcing of the documents.
While Mr Corbyn was swapping jam from his allotment with that on offer at the Awesome Wales cafe in the Vale of Glamorgan, Mr Johnson stepped into goal and faced some penalties from children and Santa Claus in Stockport.
Asked about the source of the leak, Mr Johnson – who had to cancel an event in Bolton due to protests – said: “I do think we need to get to the bottom of that, we haven’t established the truth of it.
“That document, whatever it was intended to prove, did not prove what Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party were hoping it would prove.
“It was just another distraction from the void at the heart of Labour’s policy on Brexit.”
Asked about his refusal to publish a report which looked at the potential of Russian interference in the 2016 referendum campaign, Mr Johnson said: “I know of no evidence of successful interference by Russia in any democratic event in this country.
“We are complying by normal timetables. I saw no reason to release it any earlier just because there was an election going on.”
Asked about the documents on Sky News, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “We should be concerned, it’s obviously those who know more are asserting that this has the hallmarks of Russian interference and we have to be alive to this in terms of our democratic processes.”
But pushed on why the government had not published the report from the Intelligence and Security Committee which was cleared before parliament was dissolved, she said: “The issue is that the report is sent to the government and then goes to parliament, and the speed with which parliament was dissolved means there hasn’t been a parliament to release that report to.
“But the government is taking steps and we are very aware for potential for overseas interference and we are watching for what might be going on. It’s important that these are called out politically but also by those who monitor and spot overseas interference.”
Elsewhere on the campaign trail today:
- Mr Johnson announced a £550m investment in grassroots football as part of the bid to get the World Cup in 2030. One of his visits was called off because of protests in Bolton
- Labour pledged to convert all England’s buses to electric by 2030
- The Lib Dems are promising to introduce safe standing in Premier League and Championship matches
- Nicola Sturgeon is encouraging people to do their Christmas shopping with local businesses
In the last weekend of campaigning before polling day, the Conservatives pledged to spend £550m on grassroots football to improve the nation’s chances of success in the bid for World Cup 2030.
Mr Johnson said: “Over the last year and a half our men’s and women’s teams have done us proud as a country and our years of hurt are surely coming to an end.
“If elected next week with a Conservative majority, I as prime minister will put my heart and soul behind the case for a UK.”
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson, who is standing down as an MP at this election, said: “We’ve lost over 800 pitches as well as hundreds more swimming pools, sports halls and tennis courts.
“A last-minute election pledge can’t make up for years of brutal cuts.”
Mr Corbyn has been in Wales where he is campaigning in key marginal seats in the hope of avoiding losing traditional Labour voters.
However, his key pledge on Saturday’s campaign was for electric buses across England by 2030.
The Lib Dems are also focusing on sport during the last weekend, announcing plans for safe standing in stadiums in the Premier League and the Championship, opening up cheaper tickets to more fans.
They and the SNP will make the most of Small Business Saturday to champion high street shops across the country.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Small businesses are the backbone of Scotland’s economy and it’s important that we do what we can to support them.
“The SNP is the only party that will stand up for Scottish businesses by escaping Brexit and putting the future of Scotland’s economy firmly in Scotland’s hands.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is also on the campaign trail, and criticised the four MEPs who resigned the party whip this week to support Mr Johnson’s deal.
He also told one voter the debate between Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson was “very, very repetitive”.
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