Jeremy Corbyn today blasted ‘weak’ Keir Starmer for blaming him for Labour’s election meltdown, and demanded the party returns to his ‘popular’ hard-Left policies.
The former leader tore into Sir Keir for ‘dumping’ on him in the wake of the dire Super Thursday results – which moderates blamed on ‘Long Corbyn’ in a grim reference to coronavirus.
Mr Corbyn – currently suspended from the parliamentary party in a row over his handling of anti-semitism among activists – said he bore ‘no responsibility’ for the crisis.
Extraordinarily, the 71-year-old told ITV News that Sir Keir’s woes were because he had distanced himself from the Socialist policies of the last general election. That contest saw Labour plunge to its worst defeat since 1935.
The intervention came as Sir Keir reels from the elections drubbing and a botched reshuffle.
The latest YouGov polling has given him a net rating of minus 48, with two-thirds of voters saying he is doing badly. It is even worse than the minus 40 Mr Corbyn was recording at a similar point in the last parliament.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair has delivered a scorching assessment of Labour’s condition, saying it needs ‘total reconstruction’ and Sir Keir lacks a ‘compelling economic message’.
The leader’s failure to ‘clarify’ a cultural message also means the party is being ‘defined by the ”woke” Left’, the former PM wrote in an article for Labour bible the New Statesman.
Jeremy Corbyn (left) today blasted ‘weak’ Keir Starmer (right) for blaming him for Labour’s election meltdown, and demanded the party returns to his ‘popular’ hard-Left policies
The latest YouGov polling has given Sir Keir a net rating of minus 48, with two-thirds of voters saying he is doing badly
In his strongest attack on Sir Keir yet, Mr Corbyn said: ‘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.’
Mr Corbyn insisted the policies from the 2019 election – such as reinstating free movement with the EU and offering free broadband for everyone in the country – had been vote-winners.
In contrast Sir Keir had ended up ‘agreeing with the whole government strategy’ on coronavirus.
‘We had a set of popular policies in the last manifesto – green industrial revolution, investment in the economy, equality legislation, national education service – as a party, ditching all of that, we’ll be in an even worse position,’ he said.
‘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.
‘But 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. We ended up being seen as a party that basically agreed with the whole government strategy.’
Explaining his own low popularity ratings, Mr Corbyn reprised his condemnation of the media, saying it had been worse than Arthur Scargill received during the miner’s strike in the 1980s.
‘The mainstream media has monstered me for the past five years; monstered me and John McDonnell and Diane Abbott and others in a quite extraordinary way,’ he said.
‘We’ve had even more abuse than Arthur Scargill had and he led the miner’s strike.’
The remarks came after Angela Rayner risked fuelling raging infighting by admitting to ‘robust’ discussions with Sir Keir, who tried to sack her last week before backing down and offering her a more high-profile job.
Meanwhile, Ed Miliband went on the airwaves to defend Sir Keir this morning and suggested he supported calls for a more left-wing agenda.
Mr Miliband said Labour needed to be ‘bolder’ and branded Britain ‘unfair, unequal and unproductive’.
In his article, Mr Blair said of Sir Keir: ‘He lacks a compelling economic message and the cultural message, because he is not clarifying it, is being defined by the ‘woke’ Left, whose every statement gets cut-through courtesy of the right.’
He added: ‘The Labour Party won’t revive simply by a change of leader.
‘It needs total deconstruction and reconstruction. Nothing less will do.’
He warned that political parties have ‘no divine right to exist’ and progressive movements are facing ‘extinction across the Western world’.
Mr Blair went on: ‘A progressive party seeking power which looks askance at the likes of Trevor Phillips, Sara Khan, or JK Rowling, is not going to win.
‘People are suspicious that behind the agenda of many of the culture warriors on the left lies an ideology they find alien and extreme.’
The verdict, in an article for Labour bible the New Statesman, came as Sir Keir (left today) desperately tried to stabilise after a disastrous set of elections and a botched reshuffle. Ed Miliband (right) went on the airwaves to defend Sir Keir this morning and suggested he supported calls for a more left-wing agenda
Mr Blair warned that voters do not like ‘their country their flag or their history being disrespected’.
”’Defund the police’ may be the left’s most damaging political slogan since ”the dictatorship of the proletariat”,’ he said.
‘People do not like their country, their flag or their history being disrespected. People like common sense, proportion and reason.’
In interviews last night, deputy leader Ms Rayner referred to her ‘very frank relationship’ with Sir Keir.
She claimed she was appointed to her new roles because she wanted to be more ‘front-facing’ in the reshuffled top team, after she was stripped of her roles as party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator over the weekend.
Amid accusations the Labour leader was trying to make Ms Rayner a scapegoat, it was announced late on Sunday she would be given a new role shadowing Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
She admitted that members of the public did not know what Sir Keir ‘stood for’ before they went to the polls, as Labour looks to reconnect with voters after the party’s crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.
During an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Ms Rayner said: ‘I’m not going to discuss the robust conversations that me and Keir have and have always had.
‘We have had a very frank relationship and I welcome that, actually, I think it’s really constructive.
‘And we came to a decision over the weekend of where both of us felt I could make the best opportunity and the best of my skills in supporting his leadership, and that’s what I want to do in my new role.’
Pressed on whether the Labour leader had tried to sack her, Ms Rayner said: ‘I’m really happy in the role I have got and I think the general public are not so much interested in my job but actually interested in their jobs.’
Sir Keir has been coming under pressure from the hard-Left to return to Jeremy Corbyn policies, despite him having overseen the party’s worst general election defeat since 1935.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if the Labour Party should be bolder and back proposals similar to US President Joe Biden’s one trillion dollar green investment plan, Mr Miliband said: ‘We propose a £30 billion green infrastructure plan, absolutely we should be doing that.
‘We should be bolder, of course we should be bolder.
‘Thinking about the country is the right thing for our party in the following sense, which is this country needs big economic change, that’s what Keir Starmer believes in, that’s what he talked about in his Queen’s Speech yesterday.
‘He believes we are an unfair, unequal and unproductive country, and that’s got to change.
Sir Keir and Ms Rayner (pictured taking the knee together) have been trying to paper over their differences
Sir Keir suffered another blow yesterday as it emerged Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris has stood down as his parliamentary aide
‘Now that is the right thing for the country and the right way to unite our coalition.’
Sir Keir suffered another blow yesterday when it emerged close aide Carolyn Harris stepped down from her role as parliamentary private secretary amid reports she was involved in the bitter briefing war between the Labour leader’s office and Ms Rayner.
The Times reported that the resignation of the MP for Swansea East, who is also deputy leader of Welsh Labour, came amid allegations she had spread ‘baseless rumours’ about the deputy leader.
In a statement, Ms Harris said: ‘Stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as deputy leader of Welsh Labour.
‘I have enjoyed every minute, and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.’
Following the final results of Thursday’s English council elections, the Tories gained 294 councillors across the nation, while Labour lost 267.
Ms Rayner told the BBC: ‘What I heard on the doorstep is that they didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for, so that’s what I think our challenge is, actually.
‘It’s not people briefing, saying we think Keir thinks this, we think Keir thinks that, but actually about what are we doing, what are our policies?’
She said this was partly because the Labour leader had ‘put the country first’ and acted as a ‘constructive opposition’ to the Government during the pandemic.
Asked if she had any ambition of becoming Labour leader, she told the BBC: ‘I want to get Keir into Number 10 to be prime minister because I know he can do a better job.
‘I rule out at the moment anything that doesn’t get us into that prospect of me being the deputy prime minister, that’s what I want.’