Jeremy Corbyn has defended Labour’s campaigning in the EU referendum, telling a heckler at London’s Pride festival: “I did all I could”, after earlier using a defiant speech to insist he would resist attempts to topple him.
The Labour leader was confronted as he arrived at the march after giving a speech on the effects of Brexit on Saturday morning.
He was accused by Labour activist Tom Mauchline, who posted a video of the exchange on Twitter, of failing to get enough traditional Labour voters to polling stations on Thursday.
He said: “It’s your fault, Jeremy. I had a Polish friend in tears because you couldn’t get the vote out in Wales, the north and the Midlands.” Corbyn could be heard responding in the second of three videos posted on Twitter, saying: “I did all I could.”
Mauchline went on to say: “You ran on a platform of mobilising the north and working class votes, and you’ve failed considerably. Stop using the gay movement as a shield to protect your weak leadership.”
Allies of the Labour leader said the confrontation at Pride had been staged by anti-Corbyn activists who were attempting to undermine the leader’s position.
Rumours are swirling among MPs that a vote of no confidence within the parliamentary party, which is expected to be held on Monday, could be used as the precursor to a leadership challenge.
Senior Labour sources said there was anger among party workers, and some frontbenchers, about the conduct of the Labour In campaign, which many saw as lacklustre. “Cameron worked his bollocks off and showed passion; Corbyn wrote a couple of op-eds and did about 10 events – it’s just not good enough,” said one.
Corbyn had earlier said he would face down any challenge to his leadership, as he outlined Labour’s response to Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
At a hastily convened event in London, Corbyn was cheered by an audience of activists as he cited a petition calling on him to remain in his post.
“Yes, there are some people in the Labour party, and the parliamentary Labour party in particular, who probably want someone else to be the leader of the Labour party - I think they’ve made that abundantly clear,” he said.
“What I’m totally amazed by is that 140,000 people have said they do not want the party to spend the next two months debating the leadership of the party; they want the party to get on the front foot, and get out there.”
Two backbench MPs, Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey, tabled a vote of no-confidence in Corbyn on Friday in the aftermath of the shock referendum result, blaming what they saw as his weak campaign for a remain vote.
Some inside the party hope that if the result shows that Corbyn cannot command the support of his parliamentary party – particularly if some shadow ministers also resign – it will force him to accept a leadership challenge.
The shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray – Labour’s only MP in Scotland - confronted Corbyn at a shadow cabinet meeting on Friday morning, asking “if you could honestly look in the mirror and say you are ready to be prime minister if an early election is called”.
Any challenger would have to gather the support of a fifth of the party’s MPs, with the shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle, Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis and even Corbyn’s deputy, Tom Watson, mooted as potential candidates. Labour MPs’ minds have been sharpened by the threat of a snap general election if a new Conservative leader wanted his or her own mandate.
Asked on Saturday if he would run again should there be a leadership contest, given the vocal criticism from within his own parliamentary party, Corbyn said simply – to loud applause - “Yes, I’m here.”
Chris Leslie, former shadow chancellor and a longtime critic of Corbyn, said: “Labour must have leadership that not only reaches out to new supporters, but that can also mobilise our core base, and sadly the current leadership has proved unable to do that in this referendum.”
But Corbyn’s allies believe his “remain and reform” message was closer to the instincts of the public than that of many other mainstream politicians. They also hope he can capitalise on the anti-establishment mood.
“I ran a campaign which travelled the length and breadth of this country,” Corbyn said, insisting that while he had “pointed out there were difficulties with the EU” he had also warned of the risks to jobs, rights and the environment of a vote to leave.
If the motion of no-confidence is accepted by John Cryer, the chair of the parliamentary Labour party, it will result in a secret ballot among MPs. The ballot is not binding, although defeat would be embarrassing for Corbyn.
Corbyn’s supporters say he has no intention of stepping down even if it shows that only a minority back him. His team also believe that even if his critics managed to mount a formal leadership challenge, Corbyn would easily win any ensuing vote of party members.
Corbyn said it was time to open a “national conversation” about what immigration policy should be in a post-EU Britain, and the party would review its policy, led by the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham.
But he insisted migrants made a positive contribution to Britain, and should be welcomed – adding that Thursday’s vote resulted partly from economic deprivation in many post-industrial areas of the country.
“There’s many parts of Britain where there’s a feeling of powerlessness; communities that feel abandoned, from the mining industry’s destruction onwards,” he said. “A Sports Direct warehouse on the site of the former mine says it all about the industrial strategy of modern Britain.”
This article was written by Heather Stewart Political editor, for theguardian.com on Saturday 25th June 2016 16.55 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010