John McDonnell has insisted that Jeremy Corbyn was the right leader for the Labour Party, saying that the party ‘could have won in 2017’.
The former shadow chancellor, who said he will not be in the next shadow cabinet, said Corbyn had been the right person to be at the helm even though he had just led it to its worst defeat since the 1930s.
The close Corbyn ally admitted that Labour had failed in its attempt to bring both sides of the Brexit debate together.
Asked by BBC News if he had been wrong to back Corbyn, the former shadow chancellor said: “No, I didn’t back the wrong person, because Jeremy was the right leader. We could have won in 2017.
“Things moved on, Brexit dominated everything, and that was the horns of the dilemma that we were on.”
He said that since then, the “overwhelming issue” was the party’s Brexit divide.
“And I’m an example of that,” he continued. “We had a party which was largely supportive of Remain, but many of us represented Leave constituencies.”
Adding that appeasing either side would have alienated the other, he said: “We tried to bring the country together. It failed. We have to accept that, take it on the chin. We have to own that and then move on.
“With the new leadership coming in, that will enable us to move forward on the key issues,” he said, naming a good Brexit deal, inquality and climate change.
“I won’t be in that shadow cabinet – I’ve done my bit,” he said. “We need to move on at that stage with that new leader.”
He said the party was in a position to learn lessons and construct a “broad coalition” that can address the seats the party lost.