Jeremy Corbyn apologises for 'coming up short' after bruising Labour party election defeat

Bonnie Christian
Jeremy Corbyn has apologised over Labour's catastrophic general election result: REUTERS

Jeremy Corbyn has apologised to Labour supporters over the party’s worst general election result since the 1930s.

In an open letter in the Sunday Mirror and Observer, the Labour leader acknowledged the party “came up short” in the poll on Thursday, adding: “I take my responsibility for it.”

It comes after MPs who lost their seats and party veterans insisted the majority of the blame for the catastrophic result must lie with Mr Corbyn.

However, despite Labour losing dozens of seats to the Tories, he said he was “proud” the party had offered a message of “hope” in the election.

It came as two likely leadership candidates Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy appeared to lay out their pitches for the top job on Sunday with articles in the Observer.

Boris Johnson is set to unveil his Queen’s Speech on Thursday.

Mr Corbyn was widely criticised in the aftermath of the election for failing to apologise as Labour’s “red wall” of seats in the North, the Midlands and North Wales crumbled in the face of the Conservative onslaught.

In his letter to the Sunday Mirror, he said: “I will make no bones about it. The result was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country.

“I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it.”

The Labour leader – who has said he will stand down in the early part of next year after taking the party through a “process of reflection” – said it was determined to regain the trust of traditional Labour voters who turned against it.

“We will learn the lessons of this defeat, above all by listening to lifelong Labour voters who we’ve lost in working-class communities,” he said.

“This party exists to represent them. We will earn their trust back.”

Writing in The Observer, Mr Corbyn insisted the policies he set out were genuinely popular and had re-set the terms of the debate in the election.

“I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate,” he said.

“There is no doubt that our policies are popular, from public ownership of rail and key utilities to a massive house-building programme and a pay rise for millions. The question is how can we succeed in future where we didn’t this time?”

Mr Corbyn’s choice of words was met with disbelief by some Labour MPs.

Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North said on Twitter: “‘We won the argument’ is the most insulting response to the worst election result since 1935 that any of us could imagine.

“Go. Now. Every Tory policy over the next five years has been enabled by Corbynism. By Jeremy Corbyn.”

Jess Phillips is a likely candidate to take over the Labour party leadership (PA)

The defeat plunged Labour into turmoil with some MPs and losing candidates turning on Mr Corbyn, saying his left-wing politics had cost them votes.

Allies of the Labour leader however turned their fire on Remainers who pushed the party into backing a second EU referendum, saying they had alienated Leave voters in the Labour heartlands

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the party had been caught on the “horns of a dilemma” over Brexit, and dismissed claims they had picked the “wrong” leader.

He said: “I didn’t back the wrong person because Jeremy was the right leader. We could have won in 2017. Things moved on. Brexit dominated everything.”

He said Mr Corbyn was “one of the most principled, honest, sincere, committed, anti-racist politicians”, but he had been “demonised by a smear campaign against him”.

Mr McDonnell, who confirmed he will also be standing down when Mr Corbyn goes, added: “I think we have to have a wider debate here about the role of social media and the media overall, and sometimes the nature of our politics.

“I don’t want to live in a society where those sorts of lies and smears and character-assassination dominate our politics. Let’s have an honest debate about the issues.

“It isn’t about individuals, it is about policies and analysis.”

Former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock told The Independent that Mr Corbyn “must own this devastating defeat and go after a maximum of two months, starting in January a leadership election”.

Lord Kinnock added: “It will be vital for Labour members at every level to heed what they heard on countless doorsteps and not seek excuses or alibis.”

Birmingham Yardley MP Ms Phillips and WIgan MP Ms Nandy look to be some of the most likely candidates to take over the Labour party leadership.

Writing in the Observer, Ms Phillips appeals to people to join Labour to change it, arguing that many working-class people do not believe Labour is better than the Tories.

Ms Nandy said the party had lost touch with the day-to-day lives of the people it wishes to represent.

Electing a new leader is set to take place “early next year”.

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