Jeremy Corbyn refuses five times to directly condemn IRA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised after he refused five times to directly condemn the IRA in an interview with Sky News.

Mr Corbyn said "all bombing is wrong" as he faced repeated questions on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme over whether he condemned the IRA alone for its role in the Troubles.

He said: "I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA."

Mr Corbyn also defended his associations with IRA-linked rallies in the 1980s.

He said: "I wanted to bring about peace in Northern Ireland. You have to talk to people with whom you don't agree. And I did."

But Security Minister Ben Wallace said voters would be "outraged" by his refusal to "unequivocally" condemn the IRA.

Mr Corbyn said: "In the 1980s Britain was looking for a military solution in Ireland. It clearly was never going to work. Ask anyone in the British Army at that time.

"Therefore you have to seek a peace process. You condemn the violence of those that laid bombs that killed large numbers of innocent people and I do."

Pressed as to whether he would "condemn the IRA without equating it to ...?", Mr Corbyn replied: "No, I think what you have to say is all bombing has to be condemned and you have to bring about a peace process."

Mr Wallace, who served as an Army officer in Northern Ireland, said: "People up and down the country will rightly be outraged that Jeremy Corbyn won't unequivocally condemn the IRA for the bloodshed, bombs and brutal murders they inflicted on a generation of innocent people."

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn has said that the Labour Party's immigration policy would reflect "fair immigration based on the needs of our society".

The leader refused to give a direct response to the question of whether there should be more or less immigration post-Brexit five times.

"Freedom of movement obviously ends when you leave the European Union because it's a condition of the membership," he said.

He added that Labour would make sure that EU nationals would be able to remain in Britain and "recognise the enormous contribution made by those who have come to this country in our NHS, education and transport industries".

When Sophy Ridge pressed Mr Corbyn on whether he wanted immigration to go up or down, he said: "I want us to have a society that works and a balance that works and I cannot get into numbers games because I don't think it works."

Mr Corbyn also reiterated his party's commitment to ensuring the pension triple lock, ending the freeze on working age benefits, free school meals, improving public housing and ending tuition fees.

When asked if he was going to win the election, Mr Corbyn said: "It's going very well, large numbers of people are flocking to join the Labour Party and join in our campaigns."

The seemingly positive response to many of the Labour party's proposed domestic policies is in stark contrast to the mounting criticism of Theresa May's proposed overhaul of social care funding.

The social care changes, outlined in the Conservative manifesto, would make elderly people liable for the costs of care they receive at home.

The payment would come from their own assets after death, with only the last £100,000 of their estates ring-fenced.

A Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday suggested 47% of respondents opposed the proposals, and 28% said it made them less likely to vote Conservative.

Mrs May has insisted the plans are intended to ensure fairness across generations and ensure the long-term sustainability of the social care system.

But in addition to attacks from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the proposals have also come in for criticism from some within the Conservative ranks.

Conservative think-tank, The Bow Group, described it as a "stealth tax", and Sarah Wollaston who was the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee in the last parliament has said it could encourage people to stay in hospitals, if they felt they could not afford special care at home.

Mr Corbyn has accused Mrs May of attempting to set young against old, creating a "war between the generations".

"The message is getting through. Get on any bus, get on any train, go in any cafe, talk to people. The whole discussion and the whole debate is unravelling from the Tory point of view", he told a rally in Birmingham.

:: General Election 2017: Where the parties stand on the key issues

It all comes as opinion polls in both the Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times, the first to be published since the manifesto launch, suggest Labour is chipping away at the Conservative lead.

The latest Survation poll puts the Conservatives at 46% and Labour at 34% - a 12 point difference that has closed by five points over a week.

In the Sunday Times, a YouGov poll put the Conservatives at 44% and Labour at 35% - reducing the gap to single digits for the first time since the snap election was called.

This apparent trend would represent an improvement on the 30.4% of the vote received by Ed Miliband in the 2015 General Election, if borne out on 8 June.

:: Sky is hosting the first live studio audience Q&A of the election with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn - find out how you can be involved.

:: And don't forget to watch it on Sky News: The Battle For Number 10 on Bank Holiday Monday, 29 May, at 8.30pm.