The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Labour Remainers ’should back PM’
PETER MANDELSON has issued a rallying call to moderate Labour MPs left shell-shocked by Jeremy Corbyn’s Election success, urging them to help prop up Theresa May in return for a ‘soft’ Brexit.
The Labour grandee calls for MPs who wanted to stay in the EU to use the hung Parliament – and Mrs May’s political weakness – as an opportunity to put pressure on her to keep the UK in the single market and customs union during Brexit discussions.
Hinting at a new alliance between moderates, Lord Mandelson says the ‘new parliamentary arithmetic’ should be used to out-manoeuvre ‘headbangers’ who want to cut ties with Brussels.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, he says: ‘I believe that if [Theresa May] shows flexibility, most of the country will back her. It would be churlish for people like me and other Remainers not to give her political backing.’
He adds pointedly: ‘There are Labour MPs who want to work in the national interest and will support her if she does the right thing for the country.’
Lord Mandelson’s remarks came as Mr Corbyn’s extraordinary General Election performance failed to silence some of his Labour critics – with one refusing point-blank to return to the Opposition frontbench.
Former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie sparked fury among Corbyn supporters by dismissing the party’s surprise Election result as ‘not good enough’.
Mr Leslie, who quit Labour’s frontbench when Mr Corbyn was first elected leader in 2015, said: ‘We shouldn’t pretend that this is a famous victory.’ And while he conceded that many people now saw Mr Corbyn as ‘credible’, he said that the Labour leader’s views on the economy and security made serving on his team impossible.
Another senior MP said privately: ‘Jeremy surprised us all with his campaign performance but many of us still have serious doubts that he can ever be Prime Minister material.’ Last night, sources close to Angela Eagle, who launched a leadership challenge against the Labour leader last summer after branding him ‘unable’ to do the job, said that she would now consider working with Mr Corbyn.
In her acceptance speech last week after being re-elected as MP for Wallasey, Ms Eagle declared: ‘I pledge to play any part my party should ask of me.’ Hilary Benn, another fierce critic of Mr Corbyn, was unavailable for comment yesterday but friends suggested he was more likely to seek re-election as chairman of the Commons Brexit committee than to rejoin the party’s frontbench.
Ex-Shadow Home secretary Yvette Cooper – who had been the favourite to launch a leadership challenge if Mr Corbyn had faltered at the Election – was also not available for comment. But senior Labour MP Mike Gapes dismissed suggestions that Mr Corbyn would have won the Election had more in the party supported him.
He told one Twitter user yesterday: ‘This is fantasy and you know it. MPs all worked hard to get a Labour victory. “JC” campaign more effective than expected. But we still lost.’