John McDonnell: Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour into the next general election and win
Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour into the next general election and win it, his right-hand man John McDonnell has said.
The Shadow Chancellor said the party was struggling through its “most difficult period” and did seem divided at times, but insisted it would prevail.
Mr Corbyn reaffirmed his mandate to lead the party when he comprehensively beat challenger Owen Smith in an acrimonious leadership race last summer.
But he faces key challenges next month with two by-elections in Brexit supporting areas that some fear Labour could lose.
Mr McDonnell said despite the challenge of Brexit - which the party does not yet have a clear stance on - Labour would retain and grow its support.
"We realise the serious situation our country is facing as a result of Brexit," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show this morning.
"We realise there will have to be sensible compromises that protects us, all particularly jobs, employment, wages and the economy, of all living standards, that is what we will be fighting for.”
He added: “In that way I believe we will not only hold onto the support we have got, we will grow and you will see that in terms of the way in which I think people will be campaigning over this next 12 months."
Mr McDonnell admitted: "This is the most difficult period for us, I accept that. It’s been 19 months since the general election - half of that period has been engaged in leadership elections, so no wonder people see us as a divided party at times."
But he vowed: “Let’s make this absolutely clear – Jeremy Corbyn will lead us into the next general election and we will win that general election.”
Liberal Democrat former leader Nick Clegg warned on the same show that Labour are in danger of being "cannibalised" by disenchanted traditional voters who switch to his own party and Ukip.
He argued Labour’s confusing stance on major issues like Brexit and the rise of populism could see them face a wipe-out similar to that they faced in Scotland.
Labour was decimated north of the border at the 2015 general election, where an SNP surge left Ed Miliband's party with just one seat.
Mr Clegg said today: “I think that the Labour party is in danger of being cannibalised by Ukip at one end and the Liberal Democrats at the other.
"I think that this ambivalence or this absolute lack of clarity about the biggest issue of our times, sort of dithering rather helplessly in the middle of the road Is only going to make their fate even worse.”
He insisted the Lib Dems’ “clear position” on the “new dividing line” of Europe would lead to his own party’s resurgence.
“I certainly think this whole dividing line about - 'are you open, are you closed, are you in favour in embracing Europe or not?' - is the new dividing line in politics and will continue to be so particularly in the age of Trump and Putin and the sort of nativism and chauvinism of people like that," he said.
"And you need to make a choice, where do you and on that, and the labour party doesn’t seem to stand anywhere on that.
"The Liberal Democrats have a very clear position and I think that will lead to very significant changes in the years ahead.”