The former Labour deputy leader has said Jeremy Corbyn can “take credit” for the party gaining 30 seats at the General Election and believes that all MPs would now want to serve in his shadow cabinet.
Harriet Harman told the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Tuesday that leading into last week’s election she “felt” the Labour leader “couldn’t take us towards government, let alone into government”, but conceded her doubts had been misplaced.
“Just as if we had lost seats under his leadership, he would of had to take responsibility. We’ve gained seats under his leadership and he can take the credit for that,” she said.
The atmosphere in the PLP before the election, Harman explained was “morbid” as the party expected the Conservatives to “lay waste to us”.
“Instead it turned around and we came back coherent, united, and the atmosphere is verging from on one hand relief to jubilant, and the Tories are in disarray. And Jeremy Corbyn has to take credit for that.”
Harman, who was re-elected for the 10th time and has been on the front benches for two decades, said she would now expect any changes Corbyn wished to make to be embraced by MPs.
She said she would not return to the shadow cabinet if asked, as she had “done a very long stint” already.
“For other people, I think he can choose who he wants to have in his shadow cabinet. And I would expect anybody he asks in the PLP would be prepared to serve now because what he’s shown is that he can lead us forward at a time when the Conservatives were expecting to make gains.”
May, Harman said, would be entering Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions “absolutely humbled” and revealed that Tory ministers she had spoken to were “verging on the homicidal” as they had lost colleagues “from an election she called unnecessarily”.
“Harman added: “The alternative we are sensing, this whole thing is so unstable. We could well have another election and we’re determined to go even further next time into government.”
Labour backbencher, Clive Efford - the chair of the Tribune Group, which numbered more than 75 MPs before the election - has praised Corbyn’s current shadow cabinet for sticking by him throughout the election campaign and has urged the Labour leader not to make any changes.
There has been mounting speculation that Corbyn, buoyed by his election success, could strengthen his team with experienced former ministers, the Guardian reported.
Several Labour MPs, including Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle and Chuka Umunna, have said they would serve in the shadow cabinet despite past criticism of Corbyn’s leadership, it said.
Efford told the newspaper on Monday: “Jeremy has got a shadow cabinet that remained loyal and allowed him to perform extremely well during the general election. He can’t sack those people. They deserve to be rewarded for what they have done. We need to get behind those people and give them all the support [we] can.”
Labour’s shadow cabinet are due to hold its first meeting this morning since the election.
Harman’s comments in recent days echo those of many of Corbyn’s critics who were, just months ago, deeply sceptical of him.
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, warned in March that Corbyn’s hard-left supporters will “destroy” Labour’s electoral chances.
Following Thursday’s results, Dan Hodges, columnist for the Mail on Sunday, said Corbyn had “massively surpassed expectations”.
And John Rentoul, chief political commentator at The Independent, admitted he had made a mistake in underestimating Corbyn.