POLITICS
12/05/2021 15:49 BST

Jeremy Corbyn Calls Keir Starmer 'Weak' For Blaming Election Results On Him

“Do I take responsibility for it? No."

Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn has called Keir Starmer “weak” for blaming Labour’s election defeats on him. 

Speaking to ITV after the party lost the Hartlepool by-election and a string of council seats, the former leader has said it was “a bit rich” for his successor to claim the party’s woes were his fault. 

In 2019, the party fell to its worst general election defeat since 1935 and Starmer has repeatedly said Labour was “under new management” and “rebuilding trust” with voters. 

A number of Labour MPs have said that Corbyn continues to be an issue on the doorstep for campaigners. 

But 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.”

Corbyn said voters turned on Starmer for having “basically agreed” with Boris Johnson’s strategy on Covid. 

He said: “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.

“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.”

Leon Neal via Getty Images
 Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer leaves his home in London, England. 

When asked about the party’s poor showing in 2019, when he was leader, Corbyn claimed journalists targeted him. 

“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 miners’ strike.”

Corbyn was more sympathetic with Starmer when it came to the reshuffle of his top team. 

The leader was faced with a torrent of criticism for having sacked deputy leader Angela Rayner from her role as party chair and campaign co-ordinator. 

She was subsequently promoted to a number of positions on the shadow frontbench in parliament. 

He said “no reshuffle is ever easy to do”, and added: “I’ve been through that experience myself, but I must say it’s a very odd time to do a reshuffle, because it seems to be a sort of knee jerk reaction in order to create a different set of headlines.

“Personally, I would have left it a lot longer, worked out what you want to do and taking the soundings of the people you want to put in.”

Corbyn was known to have a fractious relationship with his own deputy, Tom Watson, with the two often at loggerheads over Labour’s direction. 

Amid talk of a potential challenge to Starmer’s position as leader by a left-winger, Corbyn said Rayner’s elected role “should be respected”. 

He said: “She is the deputy leader of the party and the relationship between leaders and deputy leaders, isn’t always close. I had that experience myself, the previous leaders had the same, but I do think she has a mandate. She was elected as the deputy leader. And that should be respected.”

Corbyn remains a member of the Labour Party but does not sit as a Labour MP after he refused to apologise for comments he made suggesting his opponents exaggerated anti-Semitism in the party.

He had said that claims of anti-Semitism had been“dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.

It followed a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which found that the party broke equalities law including harassment and discrimination over antisemitism. 

Corbyn is contesting his suspension as a Labour MP but said he wanted any change “to be a political decision, not a legal decision”.

He added: “I am a member of the Labour party, which I have been ever since 1966.

“As far as I’m concerned, I should be restored to full membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and that by the way, is what very large numbers of Labour party members also think, and absolutely what Islington North constituency Labour Party thinks, which is perhaps quite important since I am the MP for Islington North.”