Jeremy Corbyn allies blame Brexit as Labour heads for worst defeat since Second World War
A fresh Labour civil war has erupted as the party heads for its worst general election result since the Second World War.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn said Brexit was to blame for a catastrophic collapse in Labour support.
But critics said the Labour leader's unpopularity with working class voters was the main factor behind the party's poor performance.
According to the exit poll, the party is forecast to win 191 seats, 71 fewer than in 2017 and the lowest total in more than 80 years.
Reacting to the prediction, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Sky News: "The poll itself it looks as though it’s Brexit dominated, a lot of this I think was Brexit fatigue, people just wanted it over and done with. And it put Labour in a very difficult position because the vast bulk of our members supported and campaigned for Remain and a large number of Labour MPs had constituencies who voted Leave.
"It was always going to be difficult for us to straddle these positions and it is pretty hard. But I think basically it looks as though all of the debate on other issues has been squeezed out by this one issue, Brexit."
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon insisted that it was Brexit, rather than Labour's left-wing policies, which was to blame for the result.
He tweeted: "If, as it seems, this was a Brexit election then the next one won't be given Johnson’s Thatcherite agenda. And Johnson must continue to be fought with radical alternatives, not triangulation, that challenge the Tories head-on."
And Jon Lansman, a key ally of Mr Corbyn and founder of the Momentum campaign group, told ITV: "What we've seen is an election which is incredibly polarised because of Brexit. I think the policies in that manifesto are basically popular."
But Labour candidates said the leadership must take responsibility for the result.
Ian Murray, the party's candidate in Edinburgh South, tweeted: Every door I knocked on, and my team and I spoke to 11,000 people, mentioned Corbyn. Not Brexit but Corbyn. I’ve been saying this for years. The outcome is that we’ve let the country down and we must change course and fast."
And Phil Wilson, Labour's candidate in Tony Blair's former Sedgefield constituency, tweeted: "For @UKLabour leadership to blame Brexit for the result is mendacious nonsense.
"Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was a bigger problem. To say otherwise is delusional. The Party’s leadership went down like a lead balloon on the doorstep. Labour’s leadership needs to take responsibility."
Former Labour minister Alan Johnson told ITV: "The working class have always been a big disappointment to Jon (Lansman) and his cult. Jeremy Corbyn was a disaster for Labour - everyone knew that he couldn't lead the working class out of a paper bag."
But Caroline Flint, who is facing a battle to save her Leave-backing Don Valley seat, tweeted: "We’re going to hear the Corbynistas blame it on Brexit and the Labour Uber Remainers blaming Corbyn.
"Both are to blame for what looks like a terrible night for Labour. Both have taken for granted Labour’s heartlands. Sorry we couldn’t offer you a Labour Party you could trust."