LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn has issued a desperate plea for Labour to remain united as the party descends into a fresh in-fighting following the disastrous defeat in last week’s Copeland by-election.
Speaking at the Scottish Labour conference on Sunday, Corbyn insisted that Britain needs his party’s policies “more than ever” and urged party members and supporters to “remain united” amid increasing pressure on his leadership.
The Conservative Party’s victory in Copeland last week was the first time that the west Cumbrian seat had been won by a party other than Labour for over 80 years.
Prime Minister Theresa May described it as an “astounding” result.
The result has raised new questions about Corbyn’s future as the party’s leader with many people in Copeland citing him and his views on issues like nuclear power as reasons for abandoning Labour after years of steadfast support.
However, Corbyn told journalists on Sunday that “now is not the time to retreat to run away or give up.”
Labour on the brink of another internal war
Corbyn’s plea for Labour to put up a united front is so far failing with rows emerging across the party.
Last night, the Labour leader’s own press team got into a war of words with former Labour MP for Copeland Jamie Reed — whose resignation triggered the Copeland election — after he expressed his dismay over the party’s failure to hold onto his old seat. “Jamie Reed should check his texts. It was he who wrote to Jeremy ‘we can increase the majority'(24/12/16), not the other way round,” it said.
Labour MP Stella Creasy accused Corbyn’s press team of damaging the party’s cause.
She tweeted in reply to the press team’s message, saying:
Corbyn’s critics were angered just hours before this exchange when one of his closest allies, Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that Labour’s collapse in Copeland could have been the result of a range of factors that have nothing to do with Corbyn himself, including adverse weather, poor turnout, unfair coverage of Corbyn’s leadership by the media, and Labour supporters being less likely to own a car.
Labour MP Michael Dugher tweeted shortly after:
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy also appeared to take a thinly-veiled swipe at Chakrabarti and other figures in the party to their response to the Copeland result
“I think the trouble with looking at every factor apart from Labour, is that it’s just a severely inadequate response,” the former shadow energy secretary told Sky News.
“Labour is in real trouble and there is no point pretending that isn’t the case.”
Former deputy leader Harriet Harman echoed Nandy’s thoughts, speaking on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night to tell Corbyn to stop blaming everyone else for his woes. “The buck stops with you,” she said.
Multiple Labour MPs including deputy leader Tom Watson have insisted that a third leadership contest in as many years is not in Labour’s interest as the party continues to trail the Tories by margins of over 15% in opinion polls.
Watson told ITV’s Robert Peston on Sunday that the whole parliamentary Labour Party was to blame for its declining popularity — not just the under-pressure leader.
Former Business Secretary Clive Lewis refused to deny on Sunday that he has registered numerous website addresses in preparation for a leadership bid. Lewis, who is dubbed a potential successor to Corbyn, was responsible for four domain names all supporting Lewis for Labour that were registered on June 29, 2016, Huffington Post reports.
Jamie Reed should check his texts. It was he who wrote to Jeremy “we can increase the majority” (24/12/16), not the other way round. https://t.co/S3nQb5snXC
— Labour Leader Media (@LOTOcomms) February 26, 2017
Spent weekend trying to convince people we are a cause worth fighting for @LOTOcomms -please don’t do this as damages us all #LabourFamily https://t.co/1Saju2HPrH
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) February 26, 2017
Pearls of wisdom from the never-having-stood-for-election, joined-ten-minutes-ago wing of the Labour Party: Labour voters “don’t have cars”.
— Michael Dugher MP (@MichaelDugher) February 26, 2017
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