Sunday shows: McDonnell apologises as Nandy and Burgon consider going for top jobs

The Andrew Marr Show

John McDonnell apologised to candidates and MPs who lost their seats in the general election and took the blame for the loss. He also suggested he would be happy for Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon to take up leadership positions – and did not back Jess Phillips or Lisa Nandy.

  • On whether the election result was bad: “Yes, it was catastrophic… It’s on me, let’s take it on the chin. I own this disaster. I apologise to all those wonderful Labour MPs who’ve lost their seats, who worked so hard. I apologise to all our campaigners. But most of all, I apologise to all those people who desperately need a Labour government. If anyone’s to blame, it is me.”
  • On Len McCluskey pointing out that Leave voters thought Labour was a Remain party: “Len’s got a point… What we tried to do is bring both sides together, and it failed.”

On polling that shows leadership was the reason for losing votes…

  • “I think it was Brexit that did us.”
  • “The media did a number on Jeremy for four years solid, every day.”
  • “I do blame the media… When he had the opportunity in broadcast, it’s interesting in the polling he was seen as the most trustworthy of the candidates. Also the person who was most in tune with people’s day-to-day concerns.
  • “Some members of our own team were attacking him for a period. But that settled down as we went into the campaign overall.”
  • “Here we have Boris Johnson, who is a proven liar… and yet contrast that with someone who is known for their honesty.”
  • “We need to examine the nature of our politics. One recent examination by Loughborough University of the campaign looked at social media, 80% of advertising by the Tories was either distorted smears or inaccurate. On Labour’s? 0%.”
  • “They did the same to Ed Miliband, the same to Neil Kinnock.”

  • On when he and Corbyn will go: “Normally, the NEC would determine the time scale. Usually 8-10 weeks, something like that. You’re looking at early in the new year.” Added that it would “obviously be sorted” by the local elections and there would be new leadership by then.
  • On possible leadership candidates: “Becky [Long-Bailey] is brilliant, I think she’s excellent.” He also mentioned Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler. “I think it should be a woman leader.”
  • You could swallow someone like Jess Phillips? “I prefer others, but the members will decide. Jess is really talented, and I hope she comes on board. I think she’ll have a great contribution to make because she speaks from the grassroots. But I want someone who has been solidly involved in developing our existing policy. That’s why Becky, Angie and Dawn have been so good.”
  • On whether it is time for a non-London to lead the party: “I think it is time for a non-metropolitan, non-London MP. And we need a Northern voice as much as possible.”
  • Lisa Nandy, for instance? “There’s a whole range of people out there that can come forward. You know my view, I think Becky Long Bailey’s done a great job. But you’ve got a team there. Angie Rayner in the debates you know mopped up in terms of the opposition. And if you look at Dawn Butler, she’s a Londoner and all the rest, look at what she’s done.”
  • On whether advisers should be held responsible for the defeat: “When you’re in an elected position, you take responsibility. You don’t blame advisers. If you have a defeat like this, take it on the chin, own it.”
  • On the suggestion that Team Corbyn and McDonnell are still trying to “fix” things: “No, we’re not into that sort of conniving politics of the past. We’ve never been that… We’re a movement now. No-one could fix a social movement.”

Lisa Nandy confirmed that she was considering a leadership bid and suggested reforming party structures.

    • Are you going to stand? “The honest answer is I’m seriously thinking about it… I definitely have a contribution to make.”
    • On whether Labour needs to focus on the North: “It’s right to say we need to be much more rooted in those parts of the country. I think that goes beyond the leader, though. If you look at party structures, at the moment our headquarters is in central London. Our last Labour Party conferences have been in the major cities. Our regional offices and our constituency parties have very little power.”
    • On London-centric media: “Setting up this interview, to be honest, was an absolute nightmare because I was told that unless I came to a London studio to talk about rebuilding our Northern heartlands on a Sunday I couldn’t come on the show. I’m very grateful to you for changing that and for allowing me to do it from up North.”
    •  On action Labour should take: “There is absolutely no reason why decision making is concentrated in central London. Our Labour HQ, in my view, should move out of London. Our regional offices should be empowered to take real decisions. We should move our party conferences back to towns as well as cities.”
    • On whether Jeremy Corbyn was a big part of the problem in the election: “That is undoubtedly true. And it wasn’t just the case in Scotland… but in every single part of the country. Not just in Leave areas, but Remain areas as well. I’ve heard it from campaigners, colleagues and activists all over the country. But it would be far too simplistic to say it’s simply about one man or one issue. One of the things I very much agree with Jeremy about is this wasn’t a rejection of all the things we were saying this election. There were a lot of labour people who liked some of the policies that we were putting forward.”
    • Credibility? “I don’t think it was about credibility actually, I think it was about trust.”
    • On whether she would back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal: “I will Vote for it on the basis that he and his team are willing to consider options like a customs union at committee stage. That’s the basis on which I voted for it last time… I think we’re looking at the hardest of hard Brexits, and I will not vote for that.”
    • Do you trust the leadership to oversee a fair leadership campaign? “I do trust them, actually, to run a fair process.” She said it’s clear McDonnell has a favoured candidate but “it’s not up to them, it’s about the national executive committee”.

Ridge on Sunday

Caroline Flint voiced her opposition to any Labour Remainer becoming the next leader, and cited concerns around Emily Thornberry’s reaction to Leave voters as a reason she should not replace Jeremy Corbyn.

  • On why she lost her seat: “We were fighting on two very difficult fronts. Nearly on every doorstep Jeremy Corbyn came up as a negative. The antagonism towards the Labour Party and particularly the Parliamentary Labour Party as well, seeing us as frustrating Brexit, becoming an overtly Remain party was so negative that it was really hard to fight on those two fronts.”
  • On whether Jeremy Corbyn has taken responsibility for the loss: “No. Running out the cracked record that we blame the media for everything is pointless. In 2017, Corbyn and those around him were so off the planet in thinking that we’d won that election – obviously we didn’t because he wasn’t prime minister – they refused to look at the underlying problems that were out there.”
  • On whether colleagues understand the concerns of Leave seat voters: “We didn’t heed the warning signs in 2017 when we lost places like Mansfield, where the majority for the Tory candidate there has increased enormously. We also ignored it back in 2010 and 2015. This has been brewing for some time.”
  • On whether Keir Starmer or Emily Thornberry should be the next leader: “I don’t believe anybody who has been the architects of our European policy in the last few years is credible to be leader. Keir Starmer led us to a policy that did not listen to Labour leave voices who urged caution. And I’m afraid Emily Thornberry did as well. She said to one of my colleagues, “I’m glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours.” It’s not acceptable.”
  • On who should be the next leader: “I don’t think it can be Corbyn without a beard, I think that would be the wrong leader as well. The only two candidates at the moment I think are worth looking at are Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, but they have got a lot to prove as well.”

Richard Burgon confirmed he was considering standing for the deputy leadership and said he would back Rebecca Long-Bailey for the top job.

  • On why Labour lost: “The picture is complicated. Caroline [Flint] voted for Boris Johnson’s deal and still didn’t win. What that shows is there’s no easy answers. I think it became the Brexit election. In 2017 we had the same leader, the same shadow chancellor, the same shadow Home Secretary, a very similar socialist policy and we gained 3 million votes. Fast forward to 2019 and we had a bad election defeat and lost votes and lost seats. The thing that changed between those two elections is that Brexit became something which overshadowed traditional party loyalties.”
  • On whether supporting a second referendum was a mistake: “I think it was right to try and bring people together and let people have the final say.”
  • On the biggest mistake in the campaign: “I think we need further time to analyse that. But I think the biggest mistake the Labour Party made was underestimating the desire for people who’d voted Leave to leave the European Union.”
  • On running for leader: “I would like to see Rebecca Long-Bailey as leader of the Labour Party. I think she understands Northern leave seats, she’s had experience in the shadow cabinet.”
  • On running for deputy: “I’m considering that. I’ll be considering that in the coming weeks.”

Iain McNicol also appeared on Ridge and suggested Jeremy Corbyn stand down immediately to be replaced by an interim leader.

  • On who the interim leader should be: “Go to one of the grandees from before – Harriet Harman or Hillary Benn or Yvette Cooper.”
  • On who the next leader should be: “We have some very good women coming forward. Caroline [Flint] was talking about Lisa Nandy, possibly Angela Rayner, we’ve got Keir Starmer. There are a great group of people out there.”

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