Jeremy Corbyn has refused to shoulder the blame for Labour’s crushing general election defeat, instead blaming the media and Brexit for his party’s heavy losses.
In a belligerent speech after his party suffered its worse losses in decades, Mr Corbyn criticised media “attacks” towards himself, his family and the party.
With one seat left to be declared, the Conservatives have won 364 seats while Labour managed to win just 203, marking its worst result in more than 80 years.
Corbyn defends popular policies
He also defended his “extremely popular” policies and blamed Brexit for Labour’s poor performance as he announced he would stand down as leader after overseeing a “period of reflection”.
Mr Corbyn, who retained his own Islington North constituency, defended putting forward a “manifesto of hope” that would help wrong the injustices and inequalities gripping the nation and tackle the climate crisis.
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“All of those policies were extremely popular during the election campaign and remain policies that have huge popular support all across this country,” he said.
“However Brexit has so polarised and divided debate in this country it has overridden so much of a normal political debate and I recognise that has contributed to the results that the Labour party has received this evening all across this country.”
Later, as he hinted that he will quit early next year, Mr Corbyn took another swipe at the media.
He said: “I’ve done everything I could to lead this party, I’ve done everything I could to develop its policies, and since I became leader the membership has more than doubled and the party has developed a very serious […] and fully costed manifesto, and I’ve received more personal abuse than any other leader has ever received by a great deal of the media.”
Mr Corbyn’s speech appeared to contrast with the victory speech made by Boris Johnson, who on Friday morning met the Queen before returning to Downing Street to applause, in which he thanked Labour voters who he said had “lent him” their vote in the historic election.
Furious Labour MPs blame Corbyn’s leadership for defeat
But despite Mr Corbyn’s defiance, his Labour MPs laid the blame for the party’s devastating defeat firmly at the leader’s feet, saying it was his unpopularity with voters that had cost the party votes.
As the exit polls predicted Labour’s defeat, former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson also blamed Jeremy Corbyn.
He told ITV news: “It’s Corbyn, it’s Corbyn. The Corbynistas will make an argument that victory is a bourgeois concept, that ‘the only goal for true socialists is glorious bloody defeat’.
“And now we’ve just had another one. And there’ll be all the conspiracy theories thrown about. It’s Corbyn. We knew that in Parliament. We knew he was incapable of leading, we knew he was worse than useless at all the qualities you need to lead a political party.”
After the election, MPs held Mr Corbyn responsible, saying it was his own leadership - not Brexit - that had brought
Anna McMorrin, who retained Cardiff North, said: “In the last few weeks of the campaign we knocked on around 15,000 doors, and a large proportion of those people we spoke to, the issue was Jeremy Corbyn.
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Ian Murray, who previously served as shadow Scotland secretary, said: “Every door I knocked on, and my team and I spoke to 11,000 people, mentioned Corbyn.
“Not Brexit but Corbyn. I’ve been saying this for years. The outcome is that we’ve let the country down and we must change course and fast.”
Ahead of the result, Labour’s Gareth Snell predicted his own defeat in the Brexit-backing former stronghold of Stoke-on-Trent Central and called for Mr Corbyn’s resignation.
“I’m going to lose badly and this is the start of 20 years of Tory rule,” he said.
For @UKLabour leadership to blame Brexit for the result is mendacious nonsense. Jeremy 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. Labour’s leadership needs to take responsibility.— Phil Wilson (@PhilWilsonXMP) December 12, 2019
Phil Wilson, who lost Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield to the Tories in a symbolic defeat, tweeted:“For @UKLabour leadership to blame Brexit for the result is mendacious nonsense. Jeremy 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. Labour’s leadership needs to take responsibility.”
On Friday, as he was asked about criticisms of his leadership Mr Corbyn said: “Of the attacks that have been made on me, I have dealt with the issues that have been raised.
He added: “I think antisemitism is an absolute evil curse on our society and I always condemn it […] and always will.”
Momentum insists ‘the policies are popular’
But despite criticism from some, grassroots Labour activist group Momentum insisted the party’s policies were popular.
In a tweet following the exit poll, but ahead of the election result, the group said: “Thanks to every single incredible person who got involved in the campaign. We don't know the result yet and this is just an exit poll with many seats on a knife edge. But don't let anybody tell you the policies aren't popular - because they are.”
Thanks to every single incredible person who got involved in the campaign. We don't know the result yet and this is just an exit poll with many seats on a knife edge. But don't let anybody tell you the policies aren't popular - because they are. pic.twitter.com/PIcuTstdQy— Momentum - #VoteLabour 🌹 (@PeoplesMomentum) December 12, 2019
Momentum founder Jon Lansman said Mr Corbyn had “achieved a great deal” on issues such as austerity, and the election was “incredibly polarised because of Brexit”.
Speaking on ITV, he said: “I think maybe the manifesto was too long and too detailed, it’s a programme actually not for a government, but for 10 years. I think it’s a good programme, but maybe we need to have shorter, snappier manifestos.”
He added: “The result is a disastrous result because millions of people in this country who are suffering from the affects of austerity are going to suffer badly.”