Diane Abbott: No questions over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership if Labour loses by-elections
Diane Abbott has insisted there would be no questions over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership if Labour loses two key by-elections in the party’s heartlands next week.
The Shadow Home Secretary also insisted she is “confident” the veteran will lead Labour into the 2020 general election.
Voters will go to the polls on Thursday in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, after the resignations of former Labour MPs Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt.
The party is facing competition from the Tories in Cumbria and Ukip in Stoke, with the party’s leader Paul Nuttall vying to enter Parliament in a heavily pro-Brexit constituency.
Defeats in either or both seats would be a severe blow to Mr Corbyn, but Ms Abbott today argued that the party should “go forward” under his leadership even if it loses both contests.
“These are difficult by-elections, they are going to be quite tight. We are hopeful of winning both of them, but it’s really important that every Labour supporter comes out to vote,” she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“And if we lost one or we lose both, the party will go forward – it has to go forward."
When asked if there would be no questions over his leadership if the party was defeated, she replied: “No, no. For people who’ve been opposed to Jeremy from the very beginning – I’m not one of them – I think we have to move forward.”
Labour bosses are increasingly confident that they will see off the Ukip challenge in Stoke, but fear the Tories are on course to seize Copeland.
Labour are currently trailing by up to 16-points behind the Conservatives in the polls, while Mr Corbyn this week recorded worse approval rating among voters than those recorded by former Labour leader, Michael Foot.
Ms Abbott said the party was still recovering from last summer’s leadership challenge and mass resignations from the Labour leader’s top team.
“I’m confident Jeremy will lead us into 2020. The point about the polls is you’ve had nearly a year of a sustained campaign against Jeremy and the Labour party, both in the media and sadly a few of our MPs,” she said.
“I think, as we move beyond what has been almost a year of misrepresentation of Jeremy’s position, I think if you move beyond that and the more people get to see him and hear him, whether it’s in the media or at campaigning events, I’m confident the polls will improve.”
She also dismissed reports that Shadow Cabinet members Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner were being touted as possible successors to Mr Corbyn should he step down as Labour leader.
It comes after the Sunday Times last week was shown evidence that voters were being asked for their views on the two MPs in polling.
“Those reports aren’t really true. It was polling about what’s our best voice in the north, I think. No I don’t think we need to be looking at the succession, because I’m confident Jeremy will take us into 2020,” she declared.
Speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan insisted that the question of the Labour leadership has been “settled”.
“If you're a Labour supporter, if you're a member of our party and our movement, my view is you're not part of a process party, you're not a commentator commentating on the current leader.
“Your job is to make sure when there are elections happening, whether council election, by-election or a general election, that Labour candidates win...That's one of the things I'm seeking to do in London, showing the difference a Labour administration can make."