Corbyn demands independent investigation into ‘entirely unacceptable’ briefing
The head of the civil service will face demands for an independent investigation into reports a senior officials believe Jeremy Corbyn would not be “physically or mentally” up to the job of prime minister.
The Labour leader will meet Sir Mark Sedwill face-to-face in Parliament on Wednesday to set out his concerns that an investigation by the civil service alone will not be sufficient.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said the actions by the unnamed officials at the “apex of the civil service” were “out of order”.
In his meeting with Sir Mark, Mr Corbyn “will be pressing the case for a genuinely independent investigation into what took place”.
The row was triggered by a report in The Times, which said the future of Mr Corbyn, 70, was openly discussed at an event attended by mandarins amid suggestions he has become “too frail and is losing his memory”.
One civil servant was quoted as saying “there must be senior people in the party who know that he is not functioning on all cylinders” while another said “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”.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said what happened was “entirely unacceptable” and “unprecedented in recent times”.
It was also based on false information because Mr Corbyn was in “excellent” health, the spokesman added.
He said: “You have clear evidence in reports of senior civil servants briefing against the elected leader of the Opposition and not only briefing against him and claiming he is not up to the job but also briefing on the basis of false information – namely that he is ill or his health is impaired.
“That is entirely untrue so on both counts you are talking about a very serious breach of civil service neutrality, a principle that absolutely underlines our democratic constitution.”
It was not appropriate for the civil service “to be marking their own homework” and there should be an “independent element in the investigation to restore confidence in those people at the apex of the civil service”, he said.
The spokesman suggested the briefing against Mr Corbyn could be linked to establishment anxiety about the prospect of a radical Labour government.
“Clearly there is resistance and anxiety in sections of the establishment about the election of a radical, transformative Labour government that is determined to redistribute wealth and power,” he said.
“That clearly is the context in which this is taking place.”