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Jeremy Corbyn tells Labour MPs to stop public criticism of his leadership

Published 09/05/2016

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to address Labour MPs
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to address Labour MPs

Jeremy Corbyn has ordered his MPs to cut out public criticism of his leadership as he defended the party's recent performance at the ballot box.

The Labour leader directly confronted unrest in the ranks fuelled by last week's election results when he addressed the weekly meeting of his MPs and peers at Westminster.

He conceded that the party was "not yet doing enough" to win back power in 2020 and acknowledged the need to broaden the appeal of his message - but insisted things were moving in the right direction.

Big cheers greeted the arrival at the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting of Sadiq Khan, whose victory in the London mayoral contest provided the Opposition with an eye-catching result.

Mr Khan, who was widely seen to have distanced himself from the leader's left-wing agenda during the campaign, arrived fresh from his first meeting with Mr Corbyn since being elected to City Hall in the early hours of Saturday morning,

He used his speech to warn that Labour risked missing an "open goal" unless it showed itself to be "a credible government-in-waiting" that focused on the issues and rejected an "us and them approach".

"We are not there yet, but I know with the right approach, Labour can still win in 2020," he said.

Senior Labour colleagues have clashed openly on social media in an increasingly fraught atmosphere - though there appears to be no prospect of any imminent challenge.

Mr Corbyn conceded that Thursday's results - when he became the first opposition leader for 50 years to lose council seats in his first local elections and saw the party hammered in Scotland and fall back in Wales - were "mixed".

But he said a recovery from the heavy defeat suffered in the 2015 general election "has begun in earnest".

In words released by his office ahead of the behind-closed-doors meeting, Mr Corbyn said he did not expect "blind loyalty" but appealed to MPs to focus on attacking the Conservatives.

"We need, if not across-the-board unity, then at least respect for each other - and to turn our fire on this Tory Government, and its forced academisation, tax and disability cuts policies in utter disarray," he said.

A source said that Mr Corbyn did not use the actual form of words that was briefed but had delivered the same message.

The party met a target of closing the gap on the Tories - with Labour a point ahead of the Tories in a projection of national vote share based on last week's voting patterns, he told the packed meeting.

"But let's be clear. The results were mixed. We are not yet doing enough to win in 2020.

"This is only the first stage in our task of building a winning electoral majority, attracting voters from all the other parties and mobilising those who have been turned off politics altogether - as we did last week in Bristol and London.

"But overall we have moved in the right direction. And now we have to build on these results."

Senior Labour sources described the meeting with Mr Khan as a "very, very friendly" exchange between men who had been "comrades and colleagues going back years".

They defended Mr Corbyn's failure to meet with the new mayor earlier or to attend his signing in - pointing out that he had travelled to Bristol to mark the "just as symbolically important" election of Labour's Marvin Rees as that city's mayor.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said the pair's 30-minute meeting was "friendly and businesslike" and centred on a number of "matters of mutual interest" including housing, transport and Europe.

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