Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said he did not want to go quickly after Labour suffered its worst election result since 1935. Corbyn added he was prepared to remain leader until the party chooses a successor next year.
“I called for a period of reflection in the party and obviously the ruling body of the party, our national executive, will decide what process we follow then for the election of a successor to me,” he told reporters.
“I’m quite prepared and obviously elected to do so, to lead the party until that takes place,” he added.
Asked if he felt guilty about the scale of Labour’s loss, Corbyn said he had done everything he could to win the election and bridge the divide in the electorate over Brexit.
With Corbyn’s socialist policy platform, Labour garnered its worst parliamentary result since 1935, but the 70-year-old left-wing veteran nonetheless said he had pride in the party’s manifesto and all of the policies that it put forward.
“My whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try and bring people together, because ultimately the country has to come together.”
Corbyn was rounded on, however, by angry Labour MPs and defeated candidates, who said his leadership was to blame for their catastrophic showing and called on him to go.
Veteran MP Dame Margaret Hodge, a long-standing critic, said the result represented the rejection of the entire Corbyn project and that it was time for him to quit.
She said that, under his leadership, Labour had become the “nasty party”, with anti-Semitism allowed to flourish.
“People just didn’t trust the economics, the confetti of promises that was thrown at the public without any clear and honest way they were going to be paid for,” she told the BBC.
“People didn’t trust us with the national security of the nation. People didn’t trust Corbyn with looking after them. Labour has become the nasty party. I am one of the victims of that with the anti-Semitism.”
Phil Wilson, who lost Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield to the Tories, said attempts by the leadership to put the result down to Brexit was “mendacious nonsense”.
“Corbyn’s leadership was a bigger problem. To say otherwise is delusional. The party’s leadership went down like a lead balloon on the doorstep,” he said.
After losing former Labour stronghold Stoke-on-Trent North, Ruth Smeeth said: “This is a disaster. Corbyn should resign now before his own count is in.”
Former Cabinet minister Hilary Benn said voters simply did not have confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.
“Any Labour canvasser will tell you we knocked on too many doors where people said ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life but I’m not going to vote Labour on this occasion’, and they didn’t have confidence in the leadership of the party,” he said.
Allies of the Labour leader insisted the defeat was down to the inability to overcome differences over Brexit rather than a rejection of Corbyn’s radical left-wing policy programme.
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