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Shadow Labour minister accuses BBC’s Nick Robinson of ‘trivialising debate’ by reading out Sun headline

By Dominic Ponsford

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner has accused the BBC of “trivialising the debate” on defence ahead of a speech where Jeremy Corbyn will attempt to shake off his pacifist image.

In a fraught interview, Gardiner condemned presenter Nick Robinson for reading out The Sun’s headline on the Labour leaked manifesto – Crash, Bang, Wallies – which he said was “beneath” him.

He said: “This is the Today programme and people expect a standard of debate that is higher than ‘Crash, Bang, Wallop’.”

Robinson interjected: “They expect us to read out newspaper headlines like we do every morning and have done for many, many years without backing them, endorsing them or criticising them.”

Gardiner replied: “And they expect you to actually exercise a degree of choice and discretion.”

The exchange came as Corbyn was due to use a speech to a leading international affairs think tank to cast off his image as a pacifist unwilling to take military action while denouncing Theresa May’s closeness to Donald Trump’s administration.

Gardiner, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said he would welcome a leader who did not “jump to the tune” of the United States over military action.

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Pressed on when Corbyn would use military action, Gardiner said: “You ask a question and then you want to answer it.”

He went on: “He (Jeremy Corbyn) is absolutely committed to the security of this country. If this country were under military threat, if this country were at risk of being attacked by another nation, of course as prime minister and of course a Labour cabinet would be wanting to ensure our security.”

Gardiner rejected “throwaway” remarks made by Mr Corbyn, where he could not think of examples when he would intervene with military action.

He said: “Picking up sort of points like that I do think you are trivialising the debate, let’s focus on the really important stuff which is the need for conflict prevention in this world, the need for conflict resolution in this world, the role that diplomacy has to play in reducing the tensions that we see.”

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