Labour leadership debate scrapped in favour of NHS support meeting

From left, Ronnie Peterson of Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group, Jeremy Corbyn and John Watson.
From left, Ronnie Peterson of Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group, Jeremy Corbyn and John Watson.

A public debate over who should be Labour Party leader has been scrapped – to make way for a meeting in support of striking junior doctors.

Harton and Westoe Miners’ Banner Group had hoped to host an open discussion on the election contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

“Corbyn looks set for a second landslide victory in a year anyway, and we felt rather than scrambling around for an Owen Smith supporter from outside the area, the junior doctors and the NHS are much more important.”

John Watson

The two men are locked in a leadership battle for the top job after a vote of no confidence in Corbyn by a number of MPs.

However, the group has taken the decision to scrap the meeting after it says it failed to find someone to speak for the Owen camp.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck – who is backing Mr Smith – turned down an invitation to take part in a public debate.

The proposed debate is now making way for a public meeting in support of the striking junior doctors and to defend the NHS.

It will be held at Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare, in Low Lane, South Shields, at 11am on Saturday.

One of the speakers at the NHS support meeting will be a junior doctor.

John Watson, secretary of the Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group, said: “To say we were disappointed in the MP for South Shields not being prepared to defend her ideas in public is an understatement.

“Corbyn looks set for a second landslide victory in a year anyway, and we felt rather than scrambling around for an Owen Smith supporter from outside the area, the junior doctors and the NHS are much more important.

“We are looking to help the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign to defend the NHS against further privatisation and restore it fully to the public sector.”

Mr Watson, a miner for 23 years, who was on strike throughout the 1984-85 miners strike, said: “No one wants to go on strike. It’s always a last resort.

“The upshot is they are striking to defend the NHS and to protect patients. That is why they need the wholehearted support of the Labour movement and the general public.”

For details, visit the South Tyneside Defend Jeremy Corbyn Facebook page.