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In a first, Corbyn says 'sorry' for heavy Labour defeat

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By Euronews
Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is seen at his home in London, Britain, December 14, 2019.
Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is seen at his home in London, Britain, December 14, 2019.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took responsibility for his party's crushing defeat at the UK general election for the first time on Sunday in two columns published in British newspapers.

"We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it," Corbyn wrote in the Observer.

Labour lost 42 seats including in constituencies it had held for decades as a blue wave unfurled over England and Wales with the Conservatives led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson gaining 66 seats to secure the party's biggest majority since the 1950s.

Labour slumped to 203 seats, its worst showing since 1935.

"I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it," his Sunday Mirror letter read.

The leftwing leader has faced criticism for his decision to stay at the helm of the party until a successor has been elected.

READ MORE: Jeremy Corbyn 'must stand down immediately', say Jewish Labour

While striking an apologetic tone at times, Corbyn also defended his party's achievements during the campaign.

"I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate. But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change," he wrote.

Analysing the reasons behind what he called “desperately disappointing” results, Corbyn noted the divisive role played by Brexit.

"The polarisation in the country over Brexit made it more difficult for a party with strong electoral support on both sides. I believe we paid a price for being seen by some as trying to straddle that divide or re-run the referendum."

Corbyn also blamed Johnson's dishonesty and the media for the results.

"The media attacks on the Labour party for the last four and a half years were more ferocious than ever – and of course that has an impact on the outcome of elections. "

"The party needs a more robust strategy to meet this billionaire-owned and influenced hostility head-on and, where possible, turn it to our advantage," the Labour leader said.

Labour leadership contest

Corbyn was not the only senior member of the party to apologise on Sunday.

"Let me make it clear that it's on me. Let's take it on the chin," Labour's finance chief John McDonnell told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "I own this disaster."

He said there would be a new leader in place by early next year, adding he would back a woman leader and believed she should be a "non-London" lawmaker.

Lisa Nandy, a lawmaker for the northern town of Wigan, said she could enter the race, while justice policy chief Richard Burgon said he would back Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour's business policy chief, if she decided to run for the leadership.