Labour MEP blasts party leadership and apologises to members for Euro election 'humiliation'

Posted On: 
26th May 2019

A top Labour candidate has launched an outspoken attack on the party's European election campaign as he apologised to members for its "humiliations" at the ballot box.

John Howarth said Labour's campaign message had been 'suicidal'.
PA Images

John Howarth, who was number one on Labour list for the South East, said the party's vow to unite the country had been a "suicidal" message because Brexit has still not happened.

He accused the party of ripping up previous EU election strategies by making general secretary Jennie Formby the official in charge of the entire campaign rather than regional officials - claims denied by Labour bosses.

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And he warned that Labour will also suffer at the next general election unless it changes tack on Brexit, despite Jeremy Corbyn's call for the next Tory leader to go the country "immediately" after taking office.

Mr Howarth, who has been a Labour MEP since 2017, made his concerns clear in an email to party members just hours before the European election results began to be announced.

He said: "Had Labour’s ‘high command’ set out to lose an election they could not have gone about it in a more convincing way. These elections were there to be won, that victory was squandered and a key opportunity to stake a claim as the party of government in waiting was lost."

The veteran activist added: "It isn’t that Labour’s message of ‘bringing the country together’ isn’t needed, simply that the country doesn’t seem ready to come together - Brexit is unfinished business.

"As such it was either phenomenally naive or utterly mendacious to put in place a policy that would knowingly lose votes in remarkable numbers. From there on the party machine sought to close down any deviation for the suicidal central message."

Accusing Labour HQ of trying to control all campaign messaging, he said party chiefs had used "spurious legal grounds were used to clamp down on local activity and even additional union assistance".

Mr Howarth said: "Labour has lost a great opportunity and, over the past year, a great many members. By failing to listen to its supporters in the country who are ever more heavily ‘remain’, to the overwhelming bulk of its members, to the majority of its MPs and MEPs the party has brought on itself an electoral humiliation at a time when the Conservative party is woefully divided and manifestly incompetent in Government. An open goal has been missed."

And he went on: "It is unclear how Labour will move on and recover from this position. Whether or not we retain Labour representation in the European Parliament for South East England is far from clear. As for a general election - I would say, not for the first time, be careful what you wish for.

A Labour party spokesperson said: "These claims are just untrue. We ran a positive campaign attempting to bring our divided country together and to challenge the far-right in Britain and across Europe."