UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

Britain’s main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said that he would step down at some point early next year. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 December 2019

UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

  • But veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down
  • Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit

LONDON: Britain’s main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized to supporters on Sunday for overseeing his Labour party’s worst election defeat since before World War II.
But the veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down.
“I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country,” Corbyn wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
“I wanted to unite the country that I love but I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it.”
Thursday’s snap general election handed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of next month.
Corbyn said on Friday that he would step down at some point early next year.
But the century-old party has no clear successor and is being riven by infighting within its senior ranks.
Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism within the party’s senior ranks.
Corbyn tried to shift the campaign’s focus on bread-and-butter social issues traditionally important to Labour voters.
“But despite our best efforts, this election was ultimately about Brexit,” Corbyn admitted in his letter.
“The Tory campaign, amplified by most of the media, managed to persuade many that only Boris Johnson could ‘get Brexit done’,” he said in reference to Johnson’s campaign slogan.
“We will learn the lessons of this defeat, above all by listening to those lifelong Labour voters who we’ve lost in working class communities.”


Bulgaria court jails duo for life over 2012 Israeli bus bombing

Updated 20 sec ago

Bulgaria court jails duo for life over 2012 Israeli bus bombing

  • The attack in July 2012 killed five Israelis including a pregnant woman, the driver and the man who carried the explosive
  • It was the deadliest against Israelis abroad since 2004

SOFIA: A Bulgarian court on Monday sentenced two men to life in prison over a deadly 2012 bus bomb attack on Israeli tourists at the country’s Burgas airport.
The attack in July 2012 killed five Israelis including a pregnant woman, their Bulgarian bus driver and the Franco-Lebanese who carried the explosive, and left over 35 people injured.
It was the deadliest against Israelis abroad since 2004.
Bulgarian and Israeli authorities blamed the bombing on the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, playing a part in a subsequent European Union decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing as a “terrorist” organization.
Judge Adelina Ivanova sentenced the two men — who fled Bulgaria and were tried in absentia — to “life in jail without parole,” finding them guilty of terrorism and manslaughter.
The two were identified as Lebanese-Australian Meliad Farah, 31 at the time of the attack, and Lebanese-Canadian Hassan El-Hajj Hassan, 24, and were charged in mid-2016 as the bomber’s accomplices.
A DNA analysis identified the bomber as 23-year-old Franco-Lebanese national Mohamad Hassan El-Husseini.
Airport CCTV footage showed him wandering inside the airport’s arrivals hall with a backpack on his back shortly before the explosion that tore through a bus outside the terminal that was headed to Sunny Beach, a popular summer destination on the Black Sea.
According to witness accounts, he tried to put his backpack inside the luggage compartment of the bus full of Israelis when it exploded.
The tourists who were killed were all in their twenties, except for a pregnant 42-year-old woman.
Prosecutors were unable to determine if the explosive was triggered by the bomber or remotely detonated by one of two men, who had also helped him to assemble the explosive device.
Prosecutor Evgenia Shtarkelova told reporters last week she “pleaded for the heaviest punishment because I consider that this terrorist act deserves to be punished in the heaviest possible way.”
The two men were put on trial in absentia in January 2018 for a terrorist attack and manslaughter but were never tracked down.
According to an investigation into the bombing, they arrived in Bulgaria from Romania in June 2012, and left again on the evening after the attack.
A public defender for Hassan, lawyer Zhanet Zhelyazkova, countered that evidence for her client’s alleged complicity with the attack was “only circumstantial.”
Shtarkelova however said that the nature of the explosive device, the fake US driver’s licenses used by the two men, their Lebanese descent and some family ties “link both defendants (...) and the attack to the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”
The investigation into the attack found that the fake licenses were made by the same printer at a university in Lebanon. It also said the suspects received money from people linked to Hezbollah.
In recent comments on the case, Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev stressed that Hezbollah was behind the attack “in terms of logistics and financing.”
The prosecution confirmed that it had no clue about the two men’s whereabouts and that they are still sought on an Interpol red notice.
The court ruling is still subject to appeal to a higher court.