Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to issue an apology on behalf of Labour for making him party leader if, as expected, Labour makes him party leader in the autumn.
In a statement, Corbyn said he would apologise to the British people for the ‘unprecedented disaster’ that followed his decision to enter the Labour leadership race, and to members of the party for their unprecedented suffering which is expected to continue for many years before order is fully restored.
‘I admit that I entered the race on a false prospectus,’ Corbyn said. ‘I was given a helpful leg up by a few old mates because they thought it would be nice to have a cardigan-wearing beardy leftie on the ballot for old times’ sake, but of course nobody knew that in fact I would be able to destroy the successful, prospering legacy of Ed Miliband in just 45 minutes. Not even me. I just kind of went along with it and the next thing I know I’m about to win, but I’ve got no plans for what happens next, no idea how to rebuild the mess I’m making of the party, and no clue how to govern a divided, fractious, restless population of MPs sharply divided along ideological lines. The Labour party has literally never been in a situation like this before.’
Former prime minister Tony Blair has sharply criticised Corbyn’s rapid rise from obscure, argumentative backbencher to unassailable tyrant. ‘The world cannot stand by and let this lunatic split the Labour Party,’ he said. ‘He runs the risk of being a divisive, authoritarian figure who could become deeply unpopular with the electorate. Of course, that didn’t stop me winning three elections but you know, lightning doesn’t strike twice and all that.’
Corbyn’s leadership rivals were scrambling to counter the veteran left-winger’s unexpected rise, setting out their distinctive manifestos. ‘Electing Jeremy is simply not in the long-term interests of the British people or the Labour party I love,’ said former health secretary Andy Burnham. ‘Voting for Jeremy is simply not in the interests, in the long term, of the British people or of the party I love, which is Labour,’ said former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. The fourth candidate, Liz Kendall, said ‘a vote to elect Jeremy would simply not be in the long-term interests of the people of Britain or of the Labour party, which I love.’
Results are expected on 12 September, with the first speech from the new leader at the party conference a week later and a new leadership election called about a week after that.