Jeremy Corbyn is to tour 60 Tory marginal seats as he puts Labour on “permanent campaign mode” in case Theresa May’s government falls.
The Labour leader won huge cheers and applause as he hailed the party’s progress in winning 30 seats and depriving May of her Parliamentary majority in the June 8 poll.
Addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Tuesday night in the House of Commons, Corbyn declared that his top team was now “a Government in waiting”.
He planned to tour 60 Conservative marginals - several with majorities of less than 100 votes - to take the fight to the Government, one MP told HuffPost UK.
In contrast to previous PLP meetings - many of which have seen Labour MPs attack Corbyn for leading them to electoral oblivion - he received repeated standing ovations.
His speech, which was greeted by whoops and whistles, was described by one former Shadow Cabinet minister as “the best I’ve heard him give at the PLP”.
Another senior MP told HuffPost UK: “It was a perfectly pitched speech from Jeremy. He hailed our wins but also said he wanted to learn why we lost in some areas. He will be meeting defeated MPs and talking to their regions.”
Former Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna added that Corbyn’s address was “excellent”. “Unity is the watchword, Government is the aim,” he said.
Corbyn also confirmed to Labour MPs that the party had added a huge 35,000 new members in just four days since the general election, a figure revealed by HuffPost UK.
In his speech, he said the aim was to keep campaigning in a bid to get Labour ready for the fall of the Tory minority government. The party needs to win just 60 seats for form a Labour government.
May is relying on votes from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to remain in power with a wafer-thin Commons majority.
On one analysis, the Tories were just 2,227 votes away from Corbyn being made Prime Minister last week,as if they had gained seven fewer seats they would have not been able form a majority even with the DUP.
The Tories won 42% of the vote, but the “Corbyn surge” saw Labour add nine points to its 2015 showing, taking it to 40% with three million extra votes.
“Last Thursday, we turned the tables on Theresa May’s gamble and gained seats in every region and nation of Britain and I’m particularly delighted that we have increased our representation in Scotland,” he told MPs.
“We increased the Labour vote by the largest margin in any election since 1945 and gained seats as a party for the first time since 1997.
“So now the election is over, the next phase of our campaign to win power for the majority has already begun. We must remain in permanent campaign mode on a General Election footing.”
Deputy Leader Tom Watson told MPs that this was the first time since 1997 that Labour had arrived back in Parliament bigger than when it left.
He won a big cheer for saying “the PLP is now resolved to make the Government’s life a misery”. Watson passed on a message of congratulations from Rob Flello, who lost his seat in Stoke on Trent South.
But Corbyn warned his MPs - many of whom passed a vote of no confidence in him only a year ago - that Labour did best when it was united.
“We achieved what we did last Thursday because we were a united party during the campaign and we need to maintain that unity and collective discipline in the weeks and months ahead.
“We will continue to take the fight to the Tories and I will be out campaigning around the country in Conservative marginals in those extra seats we need to gain to deliver the government for the many that almost 13 million people voted for last week.”
The Labour leader added that the Tories were now “on notice from the voters” that austerity was not working and would be rejected.
“As Parliament returns, we have a government in complete disarray still unable to reach an agreement, it seems, with the DUP and desperately delaying the Queen’s Speech and Brexit negotiations.
“Far from being strong and stable, the government Theresa May is putting together is weak, wobbly and out of control. This is a government on notice from the voters.
“Theresa May has no mandate and no legitimacy for policies that do not have the support of the majority of the British people.
“We are now a government in waiting and we must think and act at all times with that in mind. That is our responsibility to the huge numbers who voted for our manifesto last week: a programme to transform Britain for the many that caught the imagination of millions.
“This was a remarkable result achieved because we stayed united and worked as a team and I have no doubt together we can win the next general election, whenever that may be.”
Corbyn is due to fill vacancies in his Shadow Cabinet in coming days, although he is being urged to stick with the loyal members of his team.