Jeremy Corbyn says he is ‘obviously very sad’ over Brexit result

Labour leader hints he will step down early 2020 but says he has ‘pride in the manifesto’

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced that he will stay in his role for a "process of reflection" before stepping down. Video: Reuters

 

Jeremy Corbyn has said he is very sad at the election result and suggested he will step down in the early part of next year, but insisted he has “pride in the manifesto”.

The Labour leader gave a short statement in which he did not apologise to the 60 Labour MPs who lost their seats or acknowledge any responsibility for the party suffering its worst result since 1935.

“I have pride in our manifesto that we put forward and all our policies we put forward that actually had huge public support on issues of universal credit, the green industrial revolution and investment for the future,” he said.

“But this election was taken over ultimately by Brexit and we as a party represent people who vote remain and leave, my whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try to bring people together.”

On the night, Nr Corbyn gave a speech at his count in Islington North saying he would not lead the party into the next election but gave no specific timetable for his departure.

There is now likely to be pressure on the Labour leader to set out a specific plan for stepping down.

When asked about his timetable to leave as leader, Mr Corbyn said: “The national executive will have to meet, of course, in the very near future and it is up to them. It will be in the early part of next year.”

Mr Corbyn said he was “obviously very sad at the result we’ve achieved and very sad for colleagues who have lost their seats in the election and very sad for many people in this country who will now have a government that is continuing policies of austerity, and many of the poorest communities will suffer very badly from the economic strategy that I suspect the prime minister will take forward”.

Interim leader

Some Labour MPs want Mr Corbyn to step down sooner than the spring, arguing an interim leader should take over.

Margaret Hodge, the Barking MP, tweeted her dissatisfaction with the timetable. “Corbyn talking about a period of ‘reflection’. I’ve reflected. You failed. Please stand down,” she said, while also arguing that Labour had become the “nasty party”.

Lucy Powell, the MP for Manchester Central, did not demand an immediate resignation, but said she thought “we need to hear a bit more contrition and humility, not just from Jeremy, but from across the party as well”.

“We all have a responsibility for what is a seismic and formidable defeat that we have suffered. And we have to understand that, and listen to what the voters have said to us,” she said. “I don’t think it is sufficient for us to simply put it down to one issue or another. It’s a whole range of issues, and we need to be really humble in defeat and take our full responsibility.”

Mr Corbyn’s allies in the shadow cabinet and beyond blamed the poor result on the dominance of Brexit in the campaign.

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary and a Corbyn loyalist, said the loss was because “this became the Brexit election”.

Noting the 2017 election when Labour gained votes – but still lost – Mr Burgon said: “We had a similar manifesto, the same leader, the same shadow chancellor, the same shadow home secretary, but we were turned over because it became a Brexit election. The next election won’t be a Brexit election.”

Dan Carden, a shadow cabinet minister, told the BBC he wanted to see Labour “take our time” in finding a new leader. “I’m keen we learn many lessons but let’s not lay this all at Jeremy Corbyn’s door,” he said.

Pitches

With Mr Corbyn making clear he would not stay as leader for long, several potential candidates to succeed him appeared to give pitches at their election counts.

Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry are potential candidates from the remain wing of the party, while Rebecca Long-Bailey is the favoured choice of those around the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

Lisa Nandy and Angela Rayner are also possible contenders. Laura Pidcock, the favourite future candidate of the leadership, lost her seat. – Guardian