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Labour leadership debate: Who came out on top?   

9 September

Labour MP Owen Smith and the party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced questions from a BBC Question Time audience in Oldham last night as the leadership contest reaches its final weeks.

During the debate, which was chaired by David Dimbleby, Corbyn insisted that Labour would "come together" if he were re-elected leader while Smith countered that a Corbyn victory would leave the party in opposition "for a generation".

So who came out on top?

The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow heaps praise on Corbyn's performance, saying he "seemed to exude confidence". What was "striking", he says, was "how much better a performer Corbyn is now at this format than he was a year ago".

However, over at the Daily Telegraph, John McTernan thinks Smith "wiped the floor" with Corbyn, delivering an "exemplary" and "sharp" performance, and offering "muscular policy" in contrast to the "Kumbaya" approach from Corbyn.

Smith was "destroyed" by an angry audience member over his "hypocritical" stance on Europe, notes the Daily Express. The man told Smith, who has pledged to hold a second referendum on Brexit, that "over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union" and that it was wrong for the leadership hopeful to ignore the result.

There were nicer words from the floor for Corbyn who was told by one audience member to ignore "negative comments" because "people love you, people want you to be the prime minister".

But it was the Labour Party itself that was the real loser on the night, according to The Guardian's sketch writer John Crace. As Question Time began, both leaders "looked as if they had just realised the debate wasn't such a good idea after all and would have dearly loved an opportunity to back out", he says.

And they might have done well to do just that, according to Crace, who says both made voting Labour look like "an unattractive option".

An unorthodox measure of the two leaders' performance was identified by iNews, which said that Corbyn won "the selfie poll". It observed: "As soon as the credits rolled... voters crowded around Corbyn for a picture as Smith, who found no queue of enthusiastic photo-takers near him, walked off stage."

Twitter was awash with verdicts on the debate. One tweeter felt that both men were doomed.

 Jennie Formby, a senior Unite official, argued that Smith emerged badly during the proceedings.

But it was left to actor Alex Andreou to sum up the mood of many despairing tweeters.

Jeremy Corbyn says he is investigating rigged Labour election claims

6 September

Jeremy Corbyn has revealed he is investigating allegations that Labour's leadership contest is being rigged against him after a number of his supporters claimed they had been unfairly barred from voting.

"I'm surprised at the numbers of people who've been denied a vote and I'm surprised at the lack of reason that's been given to people," he told The Guardian

"I'm concerned about that because surely in a democratic process everyone should be entitled to vote unless there is some very good reason against them."

Corbyn's intervention appears to have been triggered by a number of his supporters posting tweets showing that they had been denied a vote in the leadership election.

In one, Sophie McKeand, a Welsh poet, revealed she had been blocked by Labour from joining the party because she tweeted support for the Greens – over a year ago.

McKeand labelled the decision a "total farce" and told The Independent: "I'm dismayed that my opinion is being so easily discarded just because I share points of view with other parties on the left.

"I don't see votes for the left as mutually exclusive. We have much more in common than we have points of contention and this is what we need to focus on."

But a Labour spokeswoman said there had been a "robust validation process" to ensure every vote cast was eligible under the rules, and that members were free to call up and find out the exact reason for the suspensions.

Last week, the National Executive Committee released a list of racist and aggressive social media posts to illustrate why it had suspended thousands of party members.

A Labour spokeswoman said it was "vital" that people who have been "abusive on social media" and then apply for a vote as a supporter "lose that vote". The same rule also applies, she said, when there is "evidence" to suggest that they "do not share the Labour Party's aims and values".

Labour party chiefs were also accused of deliberately attempting to get a rise out of bakers' union leader Ronnie Draper by barring him from voting in the leadership election or attending this month's party conference.

Draper – who represents 20,000 members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union and who is backing Corbyn against Owen Smith – claims his suspension was politically motivated.

"I have not been given the opportunity to refute any allegations, or a date for any hearing," he told the BBC.

"I believe this flies in the face of natural justice. I intend to challenge my suspension robustly and am currently taking legal advice."

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