LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist leader of the opposition Labour Party, announced Friday he will step down after projected election results showed the party not only failed to oust the ruling Conservatives but also lost a swath of formerly dependable seats.
Corbyn admitted it had been a “very disappointing” night as support crumbled in his party’s former heartlands, with exit polls predicting Labour would win just 201 seats in the 650-seat British Parliament.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party were projected to win 357 seats in Thursday’s election, which was dominated by the furious and polarizing debate over Brexit and not social issues like the public health system.
Facing his second General Election defeat, Corbyn announced he would call it a day as leader after being re-elected to his Islington North seat in London.
He said he would not lead the party into another election, but would stay on during a “process of reflection.”
Many Labour figures are calling on Corbyn to resign immediately as the party grapples with what looks set to be an overwhelming defeat. But Corbyn seemed determined to resist the pressure, accusing the media of attacking Labour and contributing to its poor result along with Brexit.
A lifelong socialist, Corbyn, 70, will be remembered for transforming the party from a progressive but center-left political force that won three elections under Tony Blair, to a radical left-wing party that called for major reforms in business and the economy.
While he is popular among the party faithful — membership swelled under him — he is unpopular with many of his colleagues in Parliament, and several high-profile anti-Brexit Labour figures either quit, joined the rival Liberal Democrats or began their own mini-party.
Corbyn had been a largely unknown lawmaker since 1983, representing the inner-London suburb of Islington North and championing human rights. He was fiercely opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, an amalgam of left-wing groups that organized several high-profile marches.