Jeremy Corbyn blames Starmer ‘agreeing with Johnson too much’ for elections debacle

‘We ended up being seen as a party that basically agreed with the whole government strategy’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 12 May 2021 21:23
Corbyn calls Starmer ‘weak’ for blaming election results on him

Jeremy Corbyn has blamed Labour’s “bizarre” campaigning and Keir Starmer “agreeing with the government” for the party’s elections humbling.

The former Labour leader also hit out at the failure to end his suspension from the parliamentary party, warning that “is what very large numbers of Labour party members also think”.

And he backed Angela Rayner, the deputy leader, after her bust-up with Sir Keir, saying: “She has a mandate and that should be respected.”

After Labour’s crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and the loss of hundreds of council seats, Peter Mandelson and other party figures blamed the hangover from Mr Corbyn’s failed leadership.

But he told ITV News: “I think it’s a bit rich to start blaming me for stuff that’s been done over the past year that I’ve had absolutely no part of whatsoever.

“I do think that dumping on somebody because they’re not there anymore is a bit weak. Do I take responsibility for it? No.”

Instead, Mr Corbyn turned on Sir Keir’s tactics, saying: “People didn’t feel confident in what the policy offer was and, rather bizarrely, the leadership launched the local election campaign on the basis of national policies – whereas, of course, it’s a local election.”

He also criticised his successor’s policy of backing the government when it believed it was making the correct decisions during the crisis brought by the pandemic.

“I think there’s the feeling that Labour had done too much agreeing with the government when many people’s experience of Covid is one of fear,” the former leader said.

“We ended up being seen as a party that basically agreed with the whole government strategy.”

Mr Corbyn was suspended after he rejected a watchdog’s ruling that he failed to prevent antisemitism, instead blaming “an obstructive party bureaucracy” for failing to stamp it out.

Although he was reinstated to the party three weeks later by the National Executive Committee, Sir Keir retained the block on him sitting as a Labour MP.

Mr Corbyn said: “I want this to be a political decision, not a legal decision. I am a member of the Labour party, which I have been ever since 1966.

“As far as I’m concerned, I should be restored to full membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and that by the way, is what very large numbers of Labour Party members also think.”

On Ms Rayner, who secured another top job after a weekend power struggle with Sir Keir, he said: “The relationship between leaders and deputy leaders, isn’t always close.

“I had that experience myself, the previous leaders had the same, but I do think she has a mandate. She was elected as the deputy leader. And that should be respected.”

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