Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will step down as Labour leader before the next election but will stay on for a “period of reflection”.
Speaking at the count for his Islington North seat minutes after being elected the constituency’s MP for a 10th time, Mr Corbyn said: “I will not lead the party into a future general election campaign.
“I will discuss with our party to ensure there is a process now of reflection on this result and on the policies that the party will take going forward.
“And I will lead the party during that period to ensure that discussion takes place and we move on into the future.”
Questions remain about the timetable of the leader’s departure, however. Jon Lansman, the founder of left-wing group Momentum, said Mr Corbyn had always been “a reluctant leader” and added that the decision on who should replace him did not need to be taken “until the new year”.
The debate in Labour emerging overnight was over whether the party’s troubles were down more to leader, its Brexit stance – or both.
“It would be remiss of me not to mention that Jeremy Corbyn has come up on the doorsteps. Some people really like him. Some people really dislike him, and that has been a turnoff,” said Gareth Snell, a moderate MP who lost his Stoke-on-Trent seat.
“But John [McDonnell] is right to say that it’s Brexit. The Labour party had a choice when Theresa May presented her deal. We could either have stopped the Tories or we could have stopped Brexit. And unfortunately some of the siren voices in the shadow cabinet who have big Liberal Democrat votes in their London seats decided that stopping Brexit, and therefore lining themselves up for future leadership bids, was much more important than respecting the votes in marginal constituencies in the midlands and in the northwest and the northeast. And they’ve sacrificed us for whatever political ambitions they want to do next.”
Speaking soon after the exit poll, Mr Corbyn’s chief lieutenant John McDonnell told the BBC: “I think Brexit has dominated everything by the looks of it. We thought other issues could cut through and there could be a wider debate. From this evidence they clearly didn’t.”
But others disagreed with the analysis. In a tweet, Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said that his local party had gathered data and that “among every voting group the overwhelming negative for us was the leadership, not Brexit”.
Labour lost swathes of seats over the north of England and midlands, though it extended gains in London, picking up Putney off the Conservatives on the back of a huge mobilisation of door-knocking activists.
Outgoing deputy leader Tom Watson, who is standing down as an MP, said he did not believe Mr Corbyn “has to go” immediately, adding: “We have to have a proper analysis of why this has happened.
“We’ve stood on two manifestos that are broadly similar in the last two elections. Many of the policies within them the polls told us were popular with voters. We need to find out what went wrong.”
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