Labour’s Emily Thornberry has declared her candidacy to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as she revealed she warned the leader it would be an act of “catastrophic political folly” to back the doomed election.
The shadow foreign secretary on Wednesday became the first candidate to formally announce they are running to replace Mr Corbyn as the party tries to recover from its worst General Election result since 1935.
Others including shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy have signalled they are considering a bid, while key Corbyn ally Rebecca Long-Bailey is seen as the choice of the current leadership.
The race to replace Mr Corbyn following the electoral disaster comes amid a battle over the future identity of the party, with former prime minister Tony Blair criticising Labour for going into the contest with a “strategy for defeat”.
Ms Thornberry, the Remain-backing MP for Islington South and Finsbury, was highly critical of the Labour leadership for backing Boris Johnson’s call for an election on Brexit.
“I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and explained exactly why we should not go along with it,” she wrote in an article for The Guardian.
“I argued that the single issue of Brexit should not be enough to give Johnson a five-year mandate to enact his agenda on every issue. Instead, I said we should insist on a referendum on his proposed deal, to get the issue of Brexit out of the way before any general election.”
At the time, Labour were widely seen as having been forced to vote with the Prime Minister’s demand for an election because the Liberal Democrats had signalled their support.
Though she was critical of Labour under Mr Blair she praised it for having “political insight and absolute clarity of purpose” as she urged the party not to battle over ideology, its Brexit position, north or south, or between men and women.
“So when the Labour leadership contest begins, whoever is standing – and I hope to be one of the candidates – the first question shouldn’t be about their position on Brexit, or where they live in our country,” she wrote.
Ms Thornberry, a former barrister, said Labour should fight on pledges for the elderly, on housing, unemployment and child poverty.