UK

Jeremy Corbyn's Critics Admit They Were 'Wrong' Following General Election 2017 Result

The Labour leader managed to defy the odds.

09/06/2017 20:48 BST

Jeremy Corbyn’s critics have been forced to backtrack following last night’s shock election result, which saw Labour secure 261 seats and the Tories loses their majority.

Sceptical political pundits and Labour MPs who were once deeply sceptical of Corbyn have now been forced to admit that they were wrong in light of Labour’s success.

Labour managed to defy the odds and add 29 seats to their numbers in parliament.

Corbyn secured a national vote of 40% for his party - higher than Tony Blair achieved in 2005. And in Wales, Labour got its highest share of the vote since 1997, securing 48.9%.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives lost 12 seats in the UK, leaving them short of the 326 majority needed, with just 318 MPs.

PA Wire/PA Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington, north London on election night.

It’s fair to say that Corbyn has had a tumultuous time as party leader in the past 20 months, with mass resignations in the wake of the EU Referendum result and persistent questioning of his leadership capabilities.

And despite Labour’s loss on Thursday, there are still many Corbyn sceptics who are clamoring to congratulate the party leader.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said as the results came in last night: “People responded well to Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty, integrity, candor and energy.

“Just as they saw Theresa May run away from holding herself to account.

“They saw through the lies of the Murdoch machine who tried to frighten people into voting Tory.”

But Watson has had a fraught relationship with his party leader, warning in March that Corbyn’s hard-left supporters will “destroy” Labour’s electoral chances.

Peter Nicholls / Reuters
Tom Watson, pictured, praised Jeremy Corbyn following the General Election - although their relationship hasn't always been so smooth.

John Rentoul, chief political commentator at The Independent, admitted he had made a mistake in underestimating Corbyn.

Rentoul wrote for The Independent: “I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn. I had already been wrong about him twice.

“I thought he would come fourth in the Labour leadership election in 2015, and I thought that, when he was exposed to the British public in an election campaign, Labour’s support would go down. 

“But I do try to learn from my mistakes, and so, knowing that I had been wrong about him, I tried to offset my own bias. I didn’t do a good job.”

Dan Hodges, columnist for the Mail on Sunday, said Corbyn had “massively surpassed expectations”.

Labour MP and former Labour leadership contender Chuka Umunna was shadow business secretary under Ed Miliband, but left the role through “mutual agreement” with Corbyn. 

Umunna was also among those Labour MPs to vote no confidence in their leader last year.

But following last night’s result, Umunna said he would be prepared to serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet 

“The effect of Jeremy running this kind of campaign, positive, optimistic, dynamic, engaging in particular young people, putting forward policies... has thwarted Theresa May’s attempt to pursue a hard Brexit and I give Jeremy and the entire Labour team full credit for that.”

Ayesha Hazarika, a former advisor to Ed Miliband, admitted she was “wrong about Jeremy Corbyn”.

“I got it wrong on Corbyn. He ripped up the political rules from the minute he decided to stand for the Labour leadership,” Hazarika said in a piece published in the Guardian.

“Many of us thought that if Corbyn faced the electorate he would cost the Labour party seats and wipe us out.

“That hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite happened. Labour gained votes, but most importantly looks like it will have gained seats.”

Owen Jones, political commentator and campaigner, said in the wake of Labour’s loss to the Tories in the Copeland by-election in February that Corbyn’s leadership was “clearly failing”, although he did commend the party leader for his policies.

Jones was among those rejoicing Labour’s result on Thursday night.

He tweeted a clip from 2015 of him defending Corbyn, adding on Friday “it should always have been my line”.