Jeremy Corbyn has denied reports that he is looking to resign as leader of the Labour party in the near future.
The Labour leader appeared on The Andrew Marr Show this morning on the first full day of party conference, and responded to comments that he was going to stand down. Pressed by Marr, Corbyn said it was “wishful thinking by some” and that he was committed to “taking the party into the general election” and would serve a full term as prime minister. “Why wouldn’t I?” he asked.
The comments come as the party’s ruling body, the NEC, passed a motion which would give them the power to choose the leader’s replacement should they vacate the post, effectively barring deputy leader Tom Watson from taking up the position should Corbyn resign.
It also follows attempts by Jon Lansman, the founder and chair of Momentum and an ally of Jeremy Corbyn on the NEC, to abolish the post of deputy leader. Lansman reportedly spoke about Watson “undermining” the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer on the day of his speech at the TUC, when he advocated holding a referendum before a general election.
Asked whether he knew about Lansman’s motion, Corbyn said he “wasn’t aware at the time” though he had been aware of concerns with having just one deputy leader. “You’ve only got to read it on LabourList“, he said. Corbyn subsequently “proposed a statement to the National Executive that we should have a consultation about having two deputy leaders which would reflect the gender and ethnic balance within our society”. Pushed on whether he agreed with Lansman’s move, he said he believed “we shouldn’t make rule changes on a whim.”
Corbyn was also asked to comment on reports that his head of policy and the author of the 2017 Labour manifesto, Andrew Fisher, was standing down. A memo from Fisher leaked to the Sunday Times reportedly attacked the leader’s team, which Corbyn acknowledged saying “he was extremely distressed at whatever was happening in the office at that time”.
Responding to comments that he would stay neutral in another referendum organised by a Labour government, the Labour leader emphasised the need for people to “understand why people voted Leave”, stating that “too often, people dismiss them”. He said the party would hold a special conference to discuss its Brexit position if it won the next general election, and said he hoped Labour “could vote as a party on this”. This would be a departure from recent rumours that collective cabinet responsibility would be suspended, as it was for the 1975 referendum on EC membership.
It is expected that Labour conference will approve the NEC Brexit statement, which states that the party would decide its position on a fresh referendum after the election of a Labour government.