Jeremy Corbyn today said it was not the time to “retreat, run away or give up” despite the “disappointing” by-election defeat in Copeland.
Speaking at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth this afternoon, Corbyn said he took his “share of responsibility” for the result, which saw the Tories win the seat for the first time since its creation in 1983.
The Labour leader also defended his decision to support the Government in voting to trigger the formal Brexit process, arguing that pro-Europeans “cannot simply wish away the result” of the referendum.
Corbyn provoked a mixture of laughter and confusion from delegates when he mistakenly referred to Labour’s Members of the Scottish Parliament – MSPs – as SNPs – the acronym for fierce rivals the Scottish National Party.
The speech came against a backdrop of soul-searching in Labour after Thursday’s by-election defeat, with Deputy Leader Tom Watson calling for backers of Corbyn to do more to support him.
Speaking from the stage, Corbyn said: “The scale of how hard our task is to persuade people of our message was underlined just this week in Copeland.
“While we stood up to hatred and division in Stoke and defeated Ukip and its sham claims to represent the working class the result in Copeland was deeply disappointing and of course I take my share of responsibility for it.
“We haven’t done enough yet to rebuilt trust with people who have been ripped off and sold out for decades and don’t feel Labour represents them.
“But now is not the time to retreat, to run away or to give up.
“Did Keir Hardie give up the fight? Did Clement Atlee?
“Did the miners, who fought for better pay and working conditions from the first days of the mining industry?
“Did the UCS employees, the mill workers and many, many more among the industrial working class who were relentlessly exploited in the workplace?
“No. They fought back and won time and time again to make their lives and all the rest of us who came after them better. That’s what we all have to do now and that’s what I will be doing.”
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, she cited the weather, Lord Mandelson and the fact that Labour had held on to the seat since 1983 as reasons for the loss.