'I was clearly wrong': What MPs who opposed Jeremy Corbyn said then and what they're saying now

'I was clearly wrong in feeling that Jeremy was unable to do this well'

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Senior Labour MPs and former advisers who have previously criticised Jeremy Corbyn were expressing notably different attitudes towards the Labour leader as the election result emerged on Friday morning.

Many from within the party praised the leader after it became Mr Corbyn had succeeded in preventing Theresa May from obtaining the majority she sought in the general election.

Here are some of the high-profile Labour figures who have altered their stance on the Labour leader:

Owen Smith, Labour MP and former leadership candidate


Mr Smith stood against Mr Corbyn in Labour’s leadership election last year and has hit out against him on a number occasions.

In July 2016, he described his rival's political principles as “just hot air” and said there is no real prospect of him leading the Labour Party into power.

“He's a principled man and someone who has got deep Labour values, but our question is 'can he take the Labour party to where we need to be?',” he said.

”Because without winning elections, without Labour being a serious party of government again, then all the principles are just hot air."


But speaking to the BBC following the election, Mr Smith said: “I was clearly wrong in feeling that Jeremy was unable to do this well and I think he’s proved me wrong and lots of people wrong and I take my hat off to him.”

When asked whether it was Mr Corbyn’s or Labour’s policies that won the election, Mr Smith said: “It has to be both. I don’t know what Jeremy’s got but if we could bottle it and drink it we’d all be doing very well. 

“We were hearing people who hadn’t voted for a long while voting Labour yesterday evening, who were inspired by the policies, and it has to be said by Jeremy, to vote Labour last night.”

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP


Mr Umunna criticised Mr Corbyn’s leadership during the EU referendum campaign, saying: “Our main striker often wasn’t on the pitch, and when he was, he failed to put the ball into the net.” 

In 2015, Mr Umunna hit out at the Labour leadership’s plan to let its MPs vote according to their conscience and political beliefs on certain issues, saying: “It’s not plausible for us to have a position not to have a position on the defence of the realm."

He later criticised Mr Corbyn’s stance on military action in Syria with thinly veiled comments directly target the Labour leader. “Ultimately there are some people who are pacifists in our party who would never ever sanction the use of force or military intervention in any circumstance. I don’t share those views,” he said.


But speaking after the election result became clear, Mr Umunna said of Mr Corbyn: “He’s had a brilliant campaign. Jeremy has fought this campaign with enthusiasm, energy, verve.

"I think he has done a really, really good job getting across a hopeful, optimistic vision and set of policies, which we’ve advanced during this campaign. I cannot fault this campaign."

Mr Umunna added in a separate interview: “Jeremy Corbyn remains leader of the Labour Party, quite rightly so, after this campaign."

Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and former leadership candidate 


Ms Cooper was one of those supported the no confidence motion in Corbyn last year, saying he was “losing us Labour support across the country” and that there was a “political vacuum” after Brexit when leadership was needed.


But when asked on Friday whether she would now be willing to serve under Mr Corbyn, Ms Cooper said: “We have leadership elections in the Labour Party and Jeremy won the leadership elections fair and square.  

“Since he did, everybody has been working, and particularly during this election campaign, the whole party has come together not just to support Jeremy and Tom [Watson] and the shadow cabinet but to support Labour candidates right across the country.”

Tom Watson, Labour deputy leader 


Mr Watson urged Mr Corbyn to quit as party leader in June last year, telling the BBC: “My party is in peril, we are facing an existential crisis. I’d like to apologise to the country for the mess they are seeing in Westminster right now.”

He said at the time he wanted a “negotiated settlement” that would have seen Corbyn step aside, but added: “I’m afraid Jeremy is not willing to discuss that with me.”


But speaking on Friday morning, Mr Watson praised the Labour leader’s “honesty, candour and energy”, saying: "Labour fought a people-powered campaign, putting passion and principle against the Tories’ corporate millions and we did better than many said we would.

"People responded well to Jeremy Corbyn’s energy, honesty, candour, and energy – just as they saw Theresa May run away from holding herself to account."

Ayesha Hazarika, former special adviser to Ed Miliband


Ms Hazarika voted for Owen Smith in Labour’s leadership election, and has since criticised Mr Corbyn on a number of occasions in comment pieces in the Guardian.

On Mr Corbyn’s performance in PMQs, Ms Hazarika said: “Jeremy should try and get into the joust more. It’s not enough to do a supply teacher death stare over his glasses.”


But in a comment article in the Guardian on Friday morning, Ms Hazarika wrote: “I fess up to being one of those people. I got it wrong on Corbyn.

“We had all overestimated Theresa May and underestimated Jeremy Corbyn. He has helped the Labour party rediscover its radical heart. […]

"Corbyn offered what people had been craving – hope. And that counts for something.”