U.K. Labour Figures Begin Jostling to Be Party’s Next Leader

LONDON (AP) -
Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. (Reuters/Toby Melville)

Labour politicians have begun jostling to become the next leader of the British opposition party in the wake of its crushing defeat in last week’s national election.

Keir Starmer, the party’s spokesman on Brexit issues, and senior lawmaker Yvette Cooper were among those suggesting Wednesday they were considering a run to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the race that heats up next year. The central question for party members is whether it was Labour policy or party leadership — or both — that led to the worst defeat since 1935.

Their budding campaigns follow the decisive win for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in last week’s national election, galvanizing his efforts to secure parliamentary approval for his Brexit divorce deal with the European Union. Many of the new Conservative Party lawmakers come from parts of the country that for decades had been Labour strongholds. Overall, the Conservatives now have 365 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, while Labour has only 203 seats.

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair placed the blame for the loss firmly at Corbyn’s feet. saying he had pursued a policy of “almost comic indecision” on Brexit that alienated voters on both sides of the debate.

“I believe, with different leadership, we would have kept much of our vote in traditional Labour areas,” Blair said. “He (Corbyn) personified politically a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far-left economic policy with deep hostility to Western foreign policy which never has appealed to traditional Labour voters and never will appeal to them.”

Corbyn resisted calls for him to step down immediately but said he would not lead the party into another election and would help the party “reflect” on their election debacle.