Jeremy Corbyn grilled on whether Keir Starmer should step down
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And Mr Corbyn twisted the knife by pointing out that, under him, Labour actually increased its vote share in Hartlepool in 2017 – in sharp contrast to the drubbing it received in Thursday’s by-election. The scathing assessment is the latest humiliation for Sir Keir after a catastrophic nationwide performance which also saw Labour lose control of several local authorities to the Conservatives, while in Scotland the party was beaten into third place.
Sir Keir responded with an immediate reshuffle which has seen deputy leader Angela Rayner removed from her role as party chairwoman, and Anneliese Dodds sacked as Shadow Chancellor, along with other personnel changes.
The move prompted criticism from among others John McDonnell, who himself served as Shadow Chancellor under Mr Corbyn, and who suggested rather than taking responsibility, Sir Keir was actually passing the buck.
Mr Corbyn took a similar line in an op-ed penned for The Independent yesterday.
He wrote: “As the dust settles, it’s time to learn the lessons of this disaster and develop a vision that can fix a broken system and prepare for the other great challenges we face, from climate change to the future of work.
“People turn out to vote when they are inspired.
“With millions simply not turning up to vote in these elections, even in the context of the pandemic these results show a loss of hope.”
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Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
In comments aimed squarely in the direction of the former Director of Public Prosecutions and MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Mr Corbyn added: “It is new ideas from across our movement – not reshuffles or cosmetic tweaks – that will bring hope back. People deserve the right to vote for a different future.
“We deserve, and desperately need, wages people can live on and rights at work, safe and secure housing, transport, broadband and energy, properly funded healthcare and education, in an economy that puts the planet before profit, and the needs of the many before the greed of the few.”
Addressing Labour’s shattering defeat in one of its former strongholds in the north-east, Mr Corbyn returned to a favourite campaign slogan.
He said: “Hartlepool, taken by the Conservatives this week on an 8,000 majority, is the third worst area for child poverty in the northeast.
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“Across regional and cultural divides this is what unites towns and cities everywhere.
“People are living with lasting damage done by policies that have taken from the many and given to the few.”
He added: “In 2017, Labour reversed a decade of political decline, including in the communities that had been torn apart by Margaret Thatcher’s war on organised workers and industry, increasing its vote share in places like Hartlepool and making gains from High Peak to Canterbury.”
Speaking yesterday, Sir Keir said: “The Labour Party must be the party that embraces the demand for change across our country.
“That will require bold ideas and a relentless focus on the priorities of the British people.
“Just as the pandemic has changed what is possible and what is necessary, so Labour must change too.”
He added: “In the last 24 hours we have seen fantastic results for Labour metro mayors, as well as the Labour government in Wales under Mark Drakeford.
“They have shown the difference Labour can make in power, standing up for their communities.”
The shake-up was coordinated by Sir Keir himself, according to Shabana Mahmood, who was handed the role of national campaign coordinator.
The Birmingham Ladywood MP told BBC Breakfast: “The decisions around personnel are for Keir Starmer, as the leader of the Labour Party, to make, and they are his decisions alone.
“What anybody else thinks does not matter.
“Keir has appointed his team, as he has the right to do, and it’s the job of all of us to work together to try and find a way to build a winning voter coalition that can span across the country.”
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