Jeremy Corbyn to quit as Labour leader by early 2020

13 December 2019, 12:55 | Updated: 13 December 2019, 17:59

By Kate Buck

Jeremy Corbyn has told of his sadness following the party's worst defeat in a general election since 1935 and added that he will no longer be Labour leader by early 2020.

The Labour leader refused to take responsibility for the losses, instisting he has "pride in our manifesto and all of the policies that we put forward".

Speaking about the timetable for him to leave, Mr Corbyn said: "The National Executive will have to meet, of course, in the very near future and it is up to them. It will be in the early part of next year."

He added: "I have pride in our manifesto that we put forward, and all the policies we put forward, which actually had huge public support.

"But this election was taken over ultimately by Brexit and we as a party represent people who voted both Remain and Leave.

"My whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try and bring people together, because ultimately the country has to come together."

Jeremy Corbyn has stepped down as Labour leader
Jeremy Corbyn will stepped down as Labour leader. Picture: PA

Despite seeing huge national losses and and seeing his own constituency majority slashed by 7,030 votes, Mr Corbyn refused to announce he was standing down in the immediate aftermath.

Instead, he said he would discuss with the party how to ensure there was a "process of reflection".

He added: "I will lead the party during this period to ensure this discussion takes place."

He was rounded on, however, by angry Labour MPs and defeated candidates, who said his leadership was to blame for their catastrophic showing and called on him to go.

Veteran MP Dame Margaret Hodge, a long-standing critic, said the result represented the rejection of the entire Corbyn project and that it was time for him to quit.

She said that, under his leadership, Labour had become the "nasty party", with anti-Semitism allowed to flourish.

Dame Margaret Hodge was one of the Labour MPs to round on Mr Corbyn
Dame Margaret Hodge was one of the Labour MPs to round on Mr Corbyn. Picture: PA

"People just didn't trust the economics, the confetti of promises that was thrown at the public without any clear and honest way they were going to be paid for," she said.

"People didn't trust us with the national security of the nation. People didn't trust Mr Corbyn with looking after them.

"Labour has become the nasty party. I am one of the victims of that with the anti-Semitism."

Phil Wilson, who lost Tony Blair's former seat of Sedgefield to the Tories, said attempts by the leadership to put the result down to Brexit was "mendacious nonsense".

"Jeremy Corbyn's leadership was a bigger problem. To say otherwise is delusional. The party's leadership went down like a lead balloon on the doorstep," he said.

After losing former Labour stronghold Stoke-on-Trent North, Ruth Smeeth said: "This is a disaster. Jeremy Corbyn should resign now before his own count is in."

Former cabinet minister Hilary Benn said voters simply did not have confidence in Mr Corbyn's leadership.

"Any Labour canvasser will tell you we knocked on too many doors where people said 'I've voted Labour all my life but I'm not going to vote Labour on this occasion', and they didn't have confidence in the leadership of the party," he said.

Allies of the Labour leader insisted the defeat was down to the inability to overcome differences over Brexit rather than a rejection of Mr Corbyn's radical left-wing policy programme.

The party was left with just 203 seats - down from the 262 it won in the 2017 general election and the 243 it held when Parliament was dissolved in November.

Speaking after he was reelected as MP of Islington North, he said the outcome of the election was " very disappointing" and confirmed he would not lead the party in any future elections.

Mr Corbyn lasted longer in Labour's top post than many expected but his time at the top has finally come to an end.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader in September 2015
Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader in September 2015. Picture: PA

His time as leader saw him outlast two Tory prime ministers and transform Labour's identity from a party of pragmatism to one in favour of radical change as he rode a wave of anti-austerity resentment.

But no-one was perhaps more surprised than Mr Corbyn when the serial rebel and stalwart of the party's left was thrust into the top job.

The anti-war campaigner, who has represented Islington North since 1983, had to be persuaded to run as an outsider candidate for Labour's leadership after a crushing general election defeat in 2015 left the party in need of re-invigoration.

He scraped onto the ballot paper thanks to the nominations of non-supporters hoping to broaden the debate.

Those colleagues had not expected the meteoric rise that followed when the party's membership, swollen by supporters joining under new rules, overwhelmingly voted for him in September of that year.

The move was much to the indignation of many in his parliamentary party, and he suffered a shadow cabinet walkout and a no-confidence vote with fears he was electorally incompetent.

Questions were repeatedly raised about his friendship with Gerry Adams
Questions were repeatedly raised about his friendship with Gerry Adams. Picture: PA

But he survived the effort to dethrone him with a second leadership election, thanks to his overwhelming popularity among grassroots members.

Having already seen the demise of David Cameron with his loss of the EU referendum, Mr Corbyn headed into the 2017 general election with the polls suggesting his prospects were poor.

He did not win, as some of his supporters may have you believe, but he did not suffer the humiliating defeat many predicted.

Instead Labour won 40% of the vote, vastly improving on Ed Miliband's share, and stripping Theresa May of her majority.

It is ironic, then, that Mrs May's effort to bury Labour instead gave Mr Corbyn's credentials a major boost and bolstered his image as a credible leader.

Campaigning group Momentum drove a large part of his popularity
Campaigning group Momentum drove a large part of his popularity. Picture: PA

That election saw him win the hearts and minds of many younger voters, encouraging in them a taste for drastic change.

Just two years later, and in the face of heavy losses for Labour, the inquest is already beginning into what went wrong.

The veteran campaigner was seen as having only tepid enthusiasm for his work in support of remaining in the EU.

And Labour's Brexit stance was widely seen as ambiguous, particularly in the face of the unequivocally Remain-backing Lib Dems.

Another major concern for many potential voters was his perceived failure to eradicate the scourge of anti-Semitism in the Labour ranks.

After saying he would not lead his party in any future election campaign, Labour's once-reluctant leader will soon have more time on his hands to spend on his beloved allotment.

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