Len McCluskey claimed Labour’s election defeat last month was “virtually, solely down to Brexit” and defended the party’s policies on other matters.
Mr McCluskey said he believed that Labour lost the election because of its stance on Brexit and that he had tried to warn Corbyn that the policy was jeopardising their chances of winning. “It was predominantly Brexit and some of us were,including myself, were pointing this out to the leadership for over 12 months.
“The more that Labour slid into being perceived as a Remain party the more we were saying that there would be consequences in our heartlands and unfortunately that came about,” Mr McCluskey said, although he added that in hindsight “there were too many policies” and that introducing a new policy “every single day” meant people couldn’t focus on the overall message.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Two years ago Jeremy Corbyn was loved. What happened in the last two years? Brexit, and Labour’s inability to effectively stay with their 2017 manifesto position of respecting the 2016 referendum and arguing to take Labour and the country out of Europe on a deal that protects jobs and investment.
“That got lost in the two years and that affected how people perceived Jeremy as a leader and we paid the consequences for that.”
He added: “I’d have preferred the election back in the summer for sure because Labour was slipping more and more into being perceived as a Remain party and I knew that was dangerous in our heartlands.”
McCluskey says ‘enemies’ used anti-Semitism row to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
Len McCluskey blasted “enemies” of Jeremy Corbyn who he claimed used anti-Semitism allegations to “undermine” the Labour leader.
The Unite general secretary today admitted Labour “never handled the anti-Semitism issue correctly” after years of complaints that the party’s processes failed to stamp out racism.
But he also said the anti-Semitism issues was used “despicably” against Jeremy Corbyn by “disingenuous” people who opposed his leadership from the start.
Interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “Every single anti-Semite in the Labour Party needs to be kicked out. I’ve fought against anti-Semitism – and I mean physically on the streets when I was younger – all my life.” He added: “We never handled the anti-Semitism issue correctly. We should have done things quicker, and you pay the consequences.”
But he also said some opponents of Jeremy Corbyn used it to undermine him as leader.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’m absolutely convinced that there were those individuals who opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s election right from the beginning, used the anti-Semitism issue – which I think is quite despicable that they did this on such an important subject – to undermine Corbyn, there’s no doubt about that.”
He said it was not about “minimising” the scale of the problem – but that the Jewish Labour Movement had said the majority of its members would not want Mr Corbyn as leader.
He added: “The issue was not well handled. It provided ammunition for Corbyn’s enemies, who used it.
“Lots of people were genuinely concerned, I have no problem with that. But there were others who were disingenuous.”
Mr McCluskey spoke out in a string of media interviews after Unite endorsed Rebecca Long-Bailey for the Labour leadership.
On Radio 5 Live’s Piennar’s Politics show this morning Mr McCluskey was told by interviewer that some MP’s were preparing to leave the Party. Mr McCluskey he said: “If you want to give me some names then we can debate that with them”.
“The truth of the matter is if any Labour MP hasn’t learned the lesson we need a united party – remember Jeremy Corbyn for four years had to fight not just the enemy, the right wing newspapers, but indeed our own ranks – now if people haven’t learned that the British electorate do not like a divided party and want to continue the divisions after this leadership election, frankly they’re better to clear out now rather than mess us about.”
He warned moderate Labour MPs to quit the party ‘NOW’ if they are not prepared to accept Rebecca Long-Bailey as Leader of the Labour Party.
Unite union has already officially backed Rebecca Long-Bailey in the contest, and also thrown its weight behind Richard Burgon as the next deputy leader.
Today Mr McCluskey dismissed suggestions that Unite, Labour’s biggest trade union backer, would have its influence reined in under a new leader, adding that those hoping for a change at the top were “deluding themselves”. As long as he led Unite, he said, he would “continue to be an influence”.
And he said the Labour Party had been changed forever by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and that his legacy will be taken forward no matter who the new leader is, even if it’s the more centrist Sir Keir Starmer.
Asked if Labour would change direction with a new leader Mr McCluskey said : “In my view, I think this is Corbyn’s legacy, I think Labour has changed forever. We now have a Labour Party who offers an alternative and that’s perfectly good for the democracy of our country. How many times did all of us hear people say politicians are all the same, there’s no difference between them.
“What Corbyn has effectively done, he and John McDonnell, have created an alternative to the Conservative Party. “