Labour leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer has labelled the party’s Brexit position “the right policy”, despite losing many seats in Leave-voting areas.
Labour suffered its worst election result in December since 1935, winning just 207 seats and conceding an 80-seat majority to the Conservatives.
The party lost a swathe of seats in its northern heartlands, most of which voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
However, Starmer today said the party’s confusing Brexit policy – to negotiate a new deal with Brussels and put it to a second referendum, against a remain option, which the party would stay neutral on – was not the reason for the defeat.
Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was one of the architects of the policy.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I thought it was the right policy.
“I thought we should have gone on by the way and said which side we would be campaigning on if there was a referendum and I warned our party that if we looked indecisive, we wouldn’t look like we were leading on this issue.”
This is in stark contrast to those on Jeremy Corbyn’s left faction of the party, who were quick to blame Brexit for the catastrophic defeat and not the performance of the opposition leader.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, party chairman Ian Lavery and leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey all have said that Brexit was the main reason for the result.
Deputy leader candidate, and Corbyn loyalist, Richard Burgon told Sky News today that Starmer was wrong in his appraisal of the defeat.
“I think it was right that we tried to bring the country together, but it failed,” he said.
“By being clearly remain – which I think Keir says in his interview – would be even worse as well if we had tried that.”