Jeremy Corbyn dismisses leadership talk after Copeland defeat

Posted On: 
24th February 2017

Jeremy Corbyn today insisted he was not considering standing down as Labour leader despite an angry backlash over the party's Copeland defeat.

Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech on Brexit in London this morning
Credit: 
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Corbyn argued he was not to blame for Labour losing a seat which they have held since the 1930s and said he was “proud” to continue as leader.

But Labour MPs have said Mr Corbyn was a major problem on the doorstep in the Cumbrian constituency, and one backbencher has called on him to consider his position.

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Labour’s candidate lost by more than 2,000 votes in Copeland – though the party successfully held off a challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall to win the by-election in Stoke.

Speaking at a Labour event in London, Mr Corbyn this morning ruled out resigning after the results.  

“No. I was elected leader of this party – I’m proud to lead this party,” he said.

“I was elected to lead this party to oppose austerity and oppose the redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction, which is what this government is doing. We’ll continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care, on housing.”

He was also asked by ITV whether he had asked himself “Could the problem actually be me?”, to which he replied briskly: “No. Thank you for your question.”

Mr Corbyn’s allies have also rallied to his defence – though Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell acknowledged there were “mixed views” about the Labour leader in the country.

He urged Labour MPs to unite behind his leadership, and blamed a combination of the importance of the nuclear industry in Copeland, the aftermath of the Brexit vote, last summer’s Labour leadership contest, and recent interventions from Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for the defeat.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry also flagged what she described as “fake news” that Mr Corbyn did not support nuclear power as contributing to the defeat, while Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald also attacked the New Labour figures.

"It's people like Peter Mandelson who should be looking at themselves and asking how they are serving the Labour party,” Mr McDonald said on Sky.

Some Labour MPs have suggested Mr Corbyn should consider his position, however.

'SIMPLY NOT ACCEPTABLE'

Veteran backbencher David Winnick said it was “quite likely” that Mr Corbyn would be in charge at the time of the next general election, but that it would not be in the best interests of the party.

He told PA: “The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour. That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that.

“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”

John Woodcock, who represents the constituency neighbouring Copeland, told the Today programme Labour was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat” at the next election.