UK Politics

General election 2017: Labour have to 'come out fighting'

Jeremy Corbyn at a campaign rally on Saturday
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn said Labour still has many voters to win over.

The Labour Party faces "a huge challenge" over the remainder of the general election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn says.

The Labour leader told supporters yesterday's local elections were "disappointing".

Mr Corbyn said "too many fantastic councillors" had not been re-elected as the party lost 382 seats nationwide.

Meanwhile Theresa May campaigned in the West Midlands after a Conservative win in the metro mayoral election there.

Speaking to a rally of supporters in Leicester, Jeremy Corbyn admitted his party faces "a huge challenge over the next four and a bit weeks" to win on 8 June after the Conservatives enjoyed the best local election performance by a governing party in 40 years, winning 500 seats.

In contrast, Labour under-performed, losing control of key councils in the Midlands and Wales that are set to be important general election battlegrounds while coming third in Scotland.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The shadow chancellor said Labour had to work on getting its message across

Mr Corbyn's comments came after his shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour must "come out fighting" after what has been a "terrible" 48 hours for the party.

Mr McDonnell, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said the party must bounce back from the loss of hundreds of seats in council elections.

He told LBC radio its performance was "really disappointing" and that its message had to "cut through" better in the five weeks to the general election.

In other election developments:

Theresa May says the election is not in the bag despite strong local gains.

The Conservative leader told the BBC "None of the votes cast yesterday will of course count on 8 June in the general election."

"I'm taking nothing for granted in the next five weeks."

According to analysis by polling expert John Curtice, if the results of Thursday's polls in Wales, Scotland and 32 county councils in England were repeated nationally, the Conservatives would be on 38%, Labour 27%, the Lib Dems 18% and UKIP 5%,

'An opportunity'

Mr Corbyn said that in spite of the results of the local elections, the general election represented "an opportunity" and a "chance to break free" from what he termed "a system that is rigged for the rich".

He also said that the local election results had shown the gap between Labour and the Conservatives was "not as great as the pundits have been saying."

"But we still have many people to convince, and we have four weeks to do it."

Mr Corbyn's comments echoed those by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who had urged the party to redouble its efforts over the coming weeks.

"We have to be much more effective in cutting through. Over the next five weeks, that's our challenge," he said.

'No rift'

In the wake of Friday's results, Labour has been forced to deny a rift between Mr Corbyn and former cabinet minister Andy Burnham, who was elected metro mayor for Greater Manchester on Friday.

Mr Burnham was not present at a victory rally in Manchester, attended by the Labour leader.

He told the BBC he had had a pre-arranged family event and that Mr Corbyn's event was independently organised.

Ian Lavery, Labour's national campaigns co-ordinator, said he was not sure why Mr Burnham had not been there but he wanted to "dispel this myth that there is a rift between Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham".

He added: "I think the more that Jeremy gets out there into the community and speaks to people, knocks on people's doors, holds rallies and speaks to people face-to-face, the more that people will warm to Jeremy Corbyn."