Emily Thornberry: Remain would have done ‘much better’ if Cameron had let Corbyn take leading role

Posted On: 
26th June 2016

The UK might have voted to remain in the EU if David Cameron had “stepped aside” and allowed Jeremy Corbyn to play a more prominent role in the campaign, a Labour frontbencher has suggested.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
PA Images

Mr Corbyn’s position as party leader is under severe threat today as he faces mass Shadow Cabinet resignations from colleagues furious at his display during the referendum.

The lifelong eurosceptic has been attacked for his “lukewarm” support for remaining in the EU during the lead up to Thursday’s vote. He also refused to share a platform with Conservatives throughout the campaign.

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Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry, a close ally of the Labour veteran, claimed the EU debate had become “all about” Mr Cameron, his renegotiation with EU leaders and Tory infighting.

“If Jeremy had been actually allowed, if David Cameron had stepped aside and let Jeremy take more of a leadership role on this campaign, I think that we would have done much better,” she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“Jeremy made 30 speeches up and down the country, and there was very little space for us to get inserted into that debate.

“And I think that if Jeremy had been allowed, I think people criticise Jeremy for saying that he was only in favour of the European Union on a 7.5/10, but I think that that was very truthful, I think that was real and I think that reflected the views of an awful lot of people in the country.”

She added: “I think if he had an opportunity to lead it more, then we would have done better. Does that mean that he is a better leader than David Cameron? I suspect it does…

“The truth is, is that Jeremy had a truthful and a straightforward response to the referendum, and I think that he should have been given an opportunity to get that out more. I think that if he had been able to, I think that would have rung true with the country.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond conceded it was difficult for the Remain campaign to give airtime to all of its cross-party representatives.

“One of the challenges for the Remain campaigners was that we were in a cross-party campaign and we had to share out the space that was available, make sure the Labour party had its voice in this debate as well, and there were a lot of people out there trying to have their voice,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

Senior frontbenchers Heidi Alexander, Gloria de Piero and Ian Murray have all resigned in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership, while Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn was sacked by Mr Corbyn in the early hours of this morning.

Ms Thornberry questioned the timing of those quitting and insisted the Islington North MP is the right man to lead the party.

“I also think that Jeremy was elected less than a year ago on the back of 60% of the membership coting in his favour, and I think that now is not the time for us to go through a leadership challenge. I do think this is a nonsense,” she said.