Early Friday morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that he is standing down, following his humiliating defeat: with 596 out 650 districts reporting, Labour lost at least 54 seats in Parliament in Thursday’s elections. The Conservative party, led by PM Boris Johnson, has established its biggest majority in decades.
These could be the worst results for Labour since 1935, and certainly since 1983, when Margaret Thatcher’s Tories won by a landslide.
Corbyn, who had been growing paler and grayer as he watched the Tories capture more than 40 Labour districts, described the results as “very disappointing.” Now, that’s the art of understatement.
Corbyn understated: “I want to say this, I will remain the MP for Islington North and I’m proud to represent the people of Islington North.” He has represented the district since 1983. The district has voted for a Labour candidate since 1937. At 2.84 square miles, Islington North is the smallest Parliamentary constituency in the UK. A government survey in 2012 found that the seat was approximately 1,300 voters short of the electoral quota. Future reviews might consolidate the three seats representing all of Greater London’s Islington down to two, forcing Corbyn to fight for his political life in the next elections.
Corbyn said he would ask the Labour party for a “process of reflection,” and promised: “I will lead the party during this period to ensure this discussion takes place.”
So, he’s not quitting yet, not before the mandatory meditation ceremony.
To which Labour MP Andrew Adonis tweeted in response: “I think the ‘period of reflection’ required to assess the need for new leadership of the Labour Party should be about ten minutes.”
Corbyn’s shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry basically declared her candidacy to inherit her boss, saying: “The real fight has to begin now,” and adding: “We will fight with the same courage my friend Jeremy showed.”
“I feel distraught that we have lost so many great comrades in Parliament and I also feel so disappointed for all the brilliant candidates,” Thornberry added.
She recalled Labour’s stunning loss in 1983, saying: “I was thinking back to the words of [then Labour leader] Neil Kinnock on the eve of that election, warning the ordinary, the young, the ill, and the old what would happen to them if Thatcher won. And we need to sound all the same warnings tonight, as well as sending a warning to businesses and their employees, our public services and their brilliant staff, about what Boris Johnson’s Brexit will mean for them.”
Johnson ran on a promise to leave the European Union ASAP. Labour promised a rerun of the Brexit referendum. The Brits went with the former.