Jeremy Corbyn says 'sorry' for Labour defeat but insists party 'won the argument'
Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for Labour's crushing general election defeat - but insisted the party has "won the argument" on a host of key issues.
The Labour leader said the loss of more than 59 seats had been a "body blow" to the party's supporters, as he added: “I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it."
But Mr Corbyn, who has confirmed he will not lead Labour into another general election, once again pointed the finger at Brexit and the media for the result and said the party's election pitch would eventually be seen as "historically important".
In an open letter published by the Sunday Mirror, Mr Corbyn said: "I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country.
"To every single person who voted for the Labour Party – everyone who shared the hope that Britain could be a fairer country that works for the many, not the few – I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart."
And he added: "I wanted to unite the country that I love but I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it."
Building on the theme in a piece for The Observer, Mr Corbyn said Labour had "more than doubled in size" over the course of his leadership and now faced the "urgent task of defending the communities that will come under sustained assault from Boris Johnson’s government".
He added: "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. But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.
"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?"
The Labour leader - who is likely to face the wrath of his remaining MPs at the first post-election meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Tuesday - said there was "no quick fix" to rebuild trust among Labour voters.
Arguing that the election had become "mainly about Brexit", Mr Corbyn accused the Conservatives of having "capitalised on the frustration created by its own failure to deliver on the referendum result".
But he acknowledged his party may have "paid a price for being seen by some as trying to straddle that divide or re-run the referendum".
And, taking aim at the press, he added: "The media attacks on the Labour party for the last four and a half years were more ferocious than ever – and of course that has an impact on the outcome of elections. Anyone who stands up for real change will be met by the full force of media opposition."
Mr Corbyn called on Labour "to take a more robust strategy to meet this billionaire-owned and influenced hostility head-on", and warned the party not to shift in a centrist direction after he leaves as leader.
He said: "Our country has fundamentally changed since the financial crash and any political project that pretends otherwise is an indulgence.
"Progress does not come in a simple straight line. Even though we lost seats heavily on Thursday, I believe the manifesto of 2019 and the movement behind it will be seen as historically important – a real attempt at building a force powerful enough to transform society for the many, not the few. For the first time in decades, many people have had hope for a better future."
The outgoing Labour leader's twin interventions came as his key ally, John McDonnell, confirmed that he would quit the Shadow Cabinet and would not take part in the race to succeed Mr Corbyn.
"The new leader will come in place and appoint a shadow cabinet," he told reporters.
"I won’t be part of the shadow cabinet. I’ve done my bit. We need to move on at that stage with that new leader."
Meanwhile The Sunday Times reports that allies of the Shadow Chancellor raised concerns about Labour's campaign weeks before polling day.
Leaked emails from Mr McDonnell's advisers seen by the paper warn of "confusion and distrust" on the doorstep and show that some in his team were "not comfortable" about its public spending promises.
A source said: "We warned Corbyn and the amateurs around him that the hostile media would pounce on any mistakes. But these gangsters made them anyway."
But an ally of Mr Corbyn shot back: "McDonnell was on every call. He chaired them every morning. He was just as responsible as anyone."