Corbyn vows “I will not quit” as critics circle over Copeland meltdown

24th February, 2017 12:05 pm

Jeremy Corbyn today vowed to stay on as Labour leader despite last night’s hugely disappointing by-election result in Copeland.

After delivering a long-planned speech on Brexit, in London, Corbyn insisted he would not step down after a mixed set of results.

Labour held on in Stoke-on-Trent Central, where Gareth Snell came 2,620 votes ahead of UKIP, but lost the Cumbrian seat which it had held as Copeland, or its predecessor constituency Whitehaven, for more than 80 years.

When asked today if he would resign, Corbyn said: “No – I was elected leader of this party, I’m proud to lead this party.”

It is only five months since Corbyn was elected with a landslide as Labour leader for the second time.

Today his chief ally, John McDonnell, told the BBC that Labour had to “listen” to voters more but defended Corbyn as “a different type of leader”.

One of the main parliamentary critics of McDonnell and Corbyn said, however, that Labour was in serious difficulty that went far beyond its problems in west Cumbria.

“The result is a disaster for us. We should not try to insult people’s intelligence by suggesting it is anything other than that”, said John Woodcock, who is MP for neighbouring Barrow-in-Furness.

“Of course the nuclear industry was important but that was not by any means the only thing which came up on the doorstep.”

The Copeland result shows Labour is heading for an “historic and catastrophic defeat” at the next general election, he added. Despite months of speculation there is little sign Theresa May will go to the country before 2020.

Woodock said Labour needed to use the Copeland result to examine its loss of support and the reasons for its position in the opinion polls, where the party has been stuck in the mid-twenties.

“I hope there is a point where actually, as a party, we are prepared to look with clear sight at what is happening with us, about our situation nationally. In any circumstances there are always excuses you can make…

“We are in trouble as a party. Actually this is a time when the country really needs an effective Opposition and they need an alternative to what I think is a very damaging approach which the Conservative government is taking on the issue of leading the European Union.

“We are not providing that at the moment and we have to do better.”

 

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