Sadiq Khan blasts Jeremy Corbyn over 'ludicrous' claim Labour 'won the argument' in election defeat

Posted On: 
17th December 2019

Sadiq Khan has ripped into Jeremy Corbyn over his "ludicrous" claim that Labour "won the argument" on a host of issues despite suffering its worst general election performance since the 1930s.

Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan.
Credit: 
PA

Labour's London mayor also accused his party's' top team of letting down "those who desperately need Labour in government".

Urging Labour to take a "cold, hard look" at itself, Mr Khan said Labour had failed to offer a "a credible candidate for Prime Minister or a believable set of priorities for governing".

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The former Labour frontbencher, who served in Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet, was one of 36 MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the 2015 Labour leadership election.

But, in an excoriating piece for the i, the London mayor said Labour had suffered a "catastrophic" defeat and warned: "No amount of spin can even begin to deflect from the disaster of losing the fourth election in a row following a decade of damaging austerity by the governing party."

He added: "By failing to win the trust of the British people, Labour has let down those who desperately need Labour in government – this includes the marginalised, the vulnerable and the poorest in our society.

"It is ludicrous to say we won the argument at this election – because we lost. Shifting the dial on the debate around austerity is no consolation to those most affected by Tory rule.

"What faces our country over the next five years as a result of our failure is heartbreaking. Inequality will continue to rise. Our NHS and other public services will continue to be underfunded. The climate emergency will be ignored. And Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit will hurt those who have already suffered the worst from austerity."

Mr Corbyn - who is likely to face a barrage of criticism from MPs and peers at tonight's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party - will be replaced as Labour leader by the end of March.

The outgoing party chief has apologised for Labour's "body blow" general election defeat - but on Sunday insisted the party had shifted the terms of the debate during the campaign.

He wrote in the Observer: "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."

But that line was ridiculed by Mr Khan, who urged the party to make "fundamental changes" to avoid another defeat.

The London mayor said: "Some individual policies were extremely popular. But that’s not enough. 

"It’s the overall impression in people’s minds that matters, and whether you can pass some basic questions of leadership. 

"Can Labour be trusted to run the country, with everything that entails? Is there a believable economic plan? Will Labour be able to deliver on its promises? If the answer to any of these fundamental questions is no, you can‘t hope to form a government."

Mr Khan, who has previously been critical of Labour's handling of anti-Jewish abuse in its ranks, also hit out at what he called the "shocking and repeated failure to tackle anti-Semitism", something he argued was "totally entwined with the failure of leadership".

He said: "I’ve seen and experienced a lot of racism in my life. And I find it devastating and shameful that so many Jewish people, including many who see Labour as their natural home, came to the conclusion that the party of recent years had become institutionally anti-Semitic.

"A fundamental part of our renewal and rehabilitation as a party must be doing whatever it takes to repair Labour’s relations with the Jewish community and stamping out anti-Semitism quickly and without exception."

'DEEPLY DIVIDED'

Allies of Mr Corbyn have pinned the blame for Labour's defeat squarely on its Brexit position, which saw the party promise to renegotiate an EU deal before calling a second referendum to settle the issue.

Wading into the debate, Mr Khan - who backed the push for a so-called People's Vote - said: "There’s no doubt Brexit also contributed to what happened last week - we were trying to navigate a deeply divided electorate - but I don’t agree with those who are trying to pin all the blame on Brexit despite the evidence to the contrary.

"If we are ever going to be able to rebuild as a party, we must truly examine all of the causes of our failure."

The comments came as the race to succeed Mr Corbyn got underway, with Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner agreeing to step aside to help her friend and flatmate Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, take the reins. 

A source close to Ms Rayner said: "She’s exploring a deputy leadership bid but won’t be any announcement either way until later this week."

Others who are pondering bids to succeed Mr Watson are thought to include Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon and Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner.

Meanwhile, Lisa Nandy has confirmed that she is considering a run to be leader, along with Jess Phillips, Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.