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Jeremy Corbyn faces criticism from Labour MPs amid warning from Tony Blair

Mr Blair is to use a speech to urge against a ‘whitewash’ of the party’s worst general election result since 1935.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn is facing sharp criticism from his own MPs over the disastrous election defeat as former leader Tony Blair warned Labour faces an existential crisis.

The outgoing leader is expected to face continued fury after he apologised to MPs and assured them he is only staying on until a new leader is elected to ensure “the smoothest possible transition”.

Mr Blair, who is the only Labour leader to have won a general election in the last 45 years, is to use a speech on Wednesday to urge against a “whitewash” of the party’s worst general election result since 1935.

I am very sorry for the result, for which I take responsibility Jeremy Corbyn

And he will tell an audience in central London that Labour faces being “replaced” if the party does not revitalise itself as a “serious, progressive” alternative to the Tories.

The criticism came as potential leadership candidates sounded out their pitches, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying he “seriously considering” running, and making a plea for the party to return to being a “broad church”.

Yvette Cooper said she will decide over Christmas whether or not to run for leader, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s a lot of things to reflect on.”

Ms Cooper said both Mr Blair and Mr Corbyn are “seen as internationalist, not patriots, and we should be able to be both patriotic and outward-looking because that’s what we were in 1945”.

Mr Corbyn told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons on Tuesday evening that he is “very sorry for the result, for which I take responsibility”.

He maintained his defence that Brexit was a major reason voters lost their trust in Labour, and repeated his criticism of the media.

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Jeremy Corbyn swearing in as an MP (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Mr Corbyn also told his MPs to vote against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal because it imposes an “impossible timetable” to get a “good” trade deal with the EU by the end of the transition period.

But the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to implement Brexit is almost certain to pass now the Prime Minister has an 80-strong majority, due to the Tories’ emphatic victory.

A series of MPs criticised Mr Corbyn during the meeting, of which veteran critic Dame Margaret Hodge said “on the whole it was fury, despair, miserable”.

Former shadow work and pensions shadow Rachel Reeves said she told the meeting Labour needs “radical change” and to get a leader “that actually wants to win”.

Labour’s Lord Falconer, a former justice secretary, told BBC’s Newsnight: “The feeling is like a volcano of molten anger that is absolutely pouring out. It’s been there in the building the whole day.”

Numerous Labour MPs said, however, that Mr Corbyn was not told to go immediately, with them apparently supporting his plan to depart after overseeing a “process of reflection”.

The new leader is expected to be in place by the end of March.

Mr Blair, whose former Sedgefield constituency fell to the Tories in Thursday’s election, is to warn that “any attempt to whitewash this defeat, pretend it is something other than it is, or the consequence of something other than the obvious, will cause irreparable damage to our relationship with the electorate”.

The former PM’s warning comes as his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change publishes a report blaming the defeat on factors including Mr Corbyn’s neutral Brexit stance, perceived associations with extremism and allegations of a lack of patriotism.

A Labour source defended Mr Corbyn and blamed Mr Blair for having overseen the start of the party’s decline.

In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Keir urged Labour not to stray “too far from its values” and called for it to continue a radical stance.

Some Labour figures have partly blamed Sir Keir and others from the party’s Remain-wing for the dire election performance in which it lost dozens of seats in Brexit-backing areas.

“It is a devastating result, but it’s important not to oversteer. The case for a bold and radical Labour government is as strong now as it was last Thursday,” he said.

PA

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