UK Politics

Then and now: Jeremy Corbyn's critics in quotes

Labour may not have won the general election, but it did far better than expected - forcing leader Jeremy Corbyn's many critics to think again.

Owen Smith

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Media captionOwen Smith: "I was wrong about Corbyn"

Owen Smith faced a bigger helping of humble pie than most - the Labour MP had launched some pretty savage attacks on Mr Corbyn during an unsuccessful attempt to unseat him as leader.

Just to show there are no hard feelings, Mr Corbyn has drafted him back into his frontbench team as shadow Northern Ireland secretary.

Then: On Mr Corbyn's assertion the Tories were in retreat, Mr Smith told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg in September last year: "I think that's delusional. I think Jeremy needs to think a bit more about that straight, honest politics that he started his campaign with. The straight, honest truth is that we are right now at our lowest ebb in the polls, ever. If there was an election tomorrow Labour would be decimated, and that's got to be a shock to Labour's system."

Now: "I was clearly wrong in feeling Jeremy wouldn't be able to do this well and I think he has proved me wrong, and lots of people wrong, I take my hat off to him.... I don't know what Jeremy's got, but if we could bottle it and drink it we'd all be doing very well."

Hilary Benn

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Hilary Benn, who was sacked from Labour's frontbench by Mr Corbyn, following reports he was trying to organise a coup against the leader, has also been fulsome in his praise for Mr Corbyn's campaign.

Then: "He is a good and decent man, but he is not a leader."

Now: "I think he fought a brilliant campaign, which enthused a lot of people with a message of hope over the politics of fear," Mr Benn told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

Harriet Harman

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Labour's former deputy leader cheerfully admits she got it wrong about Mr Corbyn, replying "delicious" when Lord Prescott's son David tweeted a picture of a pie with the word "humble".

Then: "If you fail, you can't take the party down with you - that's not fair," Ms Harman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme in July last year, after a vote of no confidence in the Labour leader.

Now: "The atmosphere is verging from on one hand relief to jubilant, and the Tories are in disarray. And Jeremy Corbyn has to take the credit for that, because he was the leader and he's gone forward," she told the same programme after the election.

John Woodcock

Image copyright Labour Party

John Woodcock disowned Jeremy Corbyn at the start of the election campaign - telling his constituents to vote for him rather than the Labour leader. The Barrow-in-Furness MP hung on to his seat, where Britain's Trident nuclear submarines are built, by a narrow margin. He said he had "no idea" what had happened.

Then: "I will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain's prime minister."

Now: "I don't know what's going on in British politics!"

Jess Philips

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Another trenchant Labour critic of Mr Corbyn's leadership, Jess Philips was returned with a massively increased majority last Thursday. The Birmingham Yardley MP thinks everyone in Labour needs to eat a certain well-known metaphorical dessert but also warns the party not to be uncritical in its support for its leader.

Then: "I mean, the polling rate is terrible, it would be crass to say anything else. It would be crass of me to say, 'He could rally!' It's like - what's it called? - Monty Python, where he's like, 'It's only a flesh wound!' It is getting a bit like that," Ms Philips told an Institute of Government event, adding it would be the "ultimate selfish act" for Mr Corbyn to remain as leader.

Now: "While I got his electability half wrong, I would be doing him and the country a disservice by donning the white robes of worship and ignoring my concerns," she wrote in the Guardian.

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