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BREXIT was “virtually” the sole cause of Labour’s defeat in last month’s general election, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said today.
He defended party leader Jeremy Corbyn over the loss of support in many traditionally Labour areas during the long parliamentary deadlock over Brexit.
Appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he added: “Two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn was loved. What happened in the last two years?”
Mr McCluskey added that Labour’s wavering on its own 2017 manifesto vow to respect the EU referendum result “affected how people perceived Jeremy as a leader and we paid the consequences for that.”
The Labour leader’s opponents also “used the anti-semitism issue” to undermine him, Mr McCluskey said.
Candidates are currently competing to succeed Mr Corbyn, who announced in the wake of Labour’s election defeat that he would step down in April.
Two candidates for the deputy leadership, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon and women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler, have not signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ (BoD) 10 pledges to “end the anti-semitism crisis.”
Mr McCluskey said it was “utter nonsense” that some people were calling for the pair to be “kicked out” of the contest for refusing to sign up to pledges that Palestine solidarity campaigners say are intended to stifle criticism of Israel by conflating it with anti-semitism.
He added: “Both Dawn and Richard have made it clear that they believe there’s a need for more debate and discussion about a couple of the points that are in the BoD pledges. Most of them are fine, but a couple of them need further consideration.”
Unite has backed shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey’s bid for the Labour leadership.
Mr McCluskey said it was “unfair” to label her the “continuity Corbyn” candidate, adding: “I think she agrees with the radical nature of the alternative that Labour offers the electorate, but she’ll have her different views about what her priorities are.”
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