Labour is not trying to win the general election, one of the party’s senior MPs has admitted, as it emerged that at least 13 MPs have resigned in an exodus ahead of the vote.
Helen Goodman, a former minister, conceded that Labour won’t win in June and Jeremy Corbyn won’t be the next Prime Minister after more MPs announced they will not stand again today.
One of the most senior MPs to refuse to stand was Michael Dugher, the former shadow minister. Dave Anderson the shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland also announced he will not seek re-election.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn’s party suffered a day of embarrassing mistakes after the leader failed to rule out calling a second Brexit referendum during his campaign launch but then rowed back and claimed the policy would not be in Labour’s manifesto hours later.
Asked at his first election speech whether reports that the party is considering offering a second Brexit vote as part of its manifesto Mr Corbyn failed to rule it out.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was asked the same question around 10 times and also refused to deny that a second vote could form part of Labour’s offer to the country.
Jeremy Corbyn vows to overturn a 'rigged system'
But just hours later a spokesman for the leader said: "A second referendum is not our policy and it won’t be in our manifesto".
They added: "A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn added: “Our position hasn’t changed and we have laid out our six tests for any Brexit deal. “We have consistently demanded a meaningful vote in Parliament and as the government, will bring the deal we negotiate to Parliament before it is finalised to ensure democratic accountability.”
It came as another of the party’s MPs claimed the Prime Minister is trying to "rig democracy" by calling for the election which Labour backed this week.
Dawn Butler MP
Dawn Butler told BBC’s Radio Four: "This election is Theresa May trying to rig democracy in our country."
When it was pointed out to her that her party had voted in favour of the election, she said: "Labour supported it because it will give us an opportunity to talk about Labour’s policies around the NHS, around Brexit, around education.
"It gives us an opportunity to talk about our policies."
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn hit the election campaign trail
However she was asked numerous times to set out what Labour’s policy was on overturning the "rigged system" in the City and struggled to do so.
The former shadow cabinet member eventually said there would be "more transparency in the law, ensuring that large corporations have to show their tax returns."
In a chaotic interview she also suggested that the coffee chain Costa Coffee did not pay their full taxes in Britain, but when challenged she said: "I’ve said Costa coffee from memory, but let me not say that definitively."
Ms Butler later tweeted: "I officially apologise to @CostaCoffee unlike one of their competitors they do pay all their taxes."
George Freeman, the Prime Minister’s policy chief and Tory MP, tweeted: "Extraordinary muddled lack of clarity, clue or policy from Corbyn policy spokesperson in car crash interview."
Earlier in the day Emily Thornberry, the party’s shadow foreign secretary, appeared to distance herself from shadow chancellor John McDonnell who said people earning over £70,000 a year are wealthy and should pay more tax.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry
She told the BBC’s Today programme that many making such a large salary would say "they are not rich".
Later Ms Goodman said the election is "not about changing the Government", but stopping the Tories from getting an "overwhelming majority", in the process appearing to concede that Mr Corbyn cannot become the Prime Minister.
Ms Goodman acknowledged that Labour faces an uphill struggle ahead of the June 8 snap election.
PMQs: Tories jeer at Corbyn as he welcomes snap election
She told ITV News: "I don’t think that this election is about changing the Government.
"I think this election is about preventing the Tories from getting such an overwhelming majority that there is no possibility of dissent in this country."
Labour MPs privately admitted yesterday that it would be a "good result" to lose 45 out of 230 seats.
Sources have said Michael Dugher has also quit
It came as Fiona Mactaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, announced she is stepping down ahead of the election because she is "bored of political squabbles."
In a letter to Labour colleagues, she said she had become “depressed by the fantastic capacity in the voluntary sector is being run down by lack of funds or poor leadership.”
Ed Miliband announced he will stand again while Ed Balls, the former Chancellor, said he will not.
Dave Anderson, the shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland and Scotland, became the eighth Labour MP to announce his resignation yesterday. The MP for Blaydon cited personal and health reasons for his decision.
Others included Rob Marris, Jim Dowd, Steve Rotheram, Andy Burnham and Michael Dugher.