Corbyn questions civil service neutrality after claims he’s ‘too frail’ to be PM
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 was highly critical about mandarins telling The Times that there were 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 were concerns in Whitehall that Mr Corbyn had become “too frail and is losing his memory”.
Labour roundly rejected the claims as a “scurrilous” attempt to thwart Labour’s goals, insisting Mr Corbyn is “in good health” and leads an “active life”.
Mr Corbyn, 70, mounted his own defence on Saturday, stressing the civil service must be an independent institution.
“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.”
The Times’ front page story on Saturday reported that officials were concerned Mr Corbyn’s health may force him to stand down as Labour leader and suggested that he is being “propped up” by his advisers.
The newspaper reported 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 Mr Corbyn did not make his own decisions were “laughable” and “demonstrably false”.
“Jeremy Corbyn leads an active life, running and cycling regularly, and is in good health,” a spokesman said.
“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.”