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Labour conference: Pundit who called election wrong: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’

'I haven’t so much eaten humble pie, as face-planted myself in humble pie', says Evening Standard's Ayesha Hazarika

28 September, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Ayesha Hazarika speaking in Brighton

A NEWSPAPER columnist who trashed Jeremy Corbyn’s prospects as Labour Party leader by claiming he was “wasted on Kool-Aid” has told members: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

Ayesha Hazarika, a former special adviser to Ed Miliband, is now one of the political world’s most recognisable pundits and she held her own when challenged on her gloomy past predictions at a fringe conference meeting held by the Fabian Society on Sunday evening.

But a flashpoint came when she was directly asked by a member from east London to apologise for “undermining the Labour movement” with her columns about Mr Corbyn, including a searing critique in Total Politics magazine in which she had urged him to step down.

Ms Hazarika, a Labour member in Sir Keir Starmer’s Holborn and St Pancras constituency, later wrote an article after June’s general election conceding that she had called the result wrong.

“It’s really good that you are a big man and that you’ve really got over it,” she said to the questioner at the back of the room. “It’s really good that you’ve come here in the spirit. I think what is really important is when you have got something wrong that you say you got it wrong, so in the wee hours of the morning I wrote that article saying I got it wrong. I haven’t so much eaten humble pie, as face-planted myself in humble pie – but I don’t know what you want us to do? Do you want us to crawl over broken glass and beg for your forgiveness? Do you want me to be flogged or what?”

Ms Hazarika has a new career as a stand-up comedian and is a regular panellist on current affairs shows. She said she knew people who had not come to the conference for fear of a hostile atmosphere but that everyone needed to work together because Labour now “had a shot at the title”, meaning victory in the next general election. “I’m prepared to admit when I got it wrong and I called it wrong and I think a lot of people are,” she said. “But if we are going to get constantly that type of thing, it’s not going to be helpful to move on. So I say to you again: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry – I don’t know what more I can do but I think we all need to move on from this.”

Fellow panellist shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti had spoken in Ms Hazarika’s defence, insisting that “this broad church can unite and we should remember to keep our eyes on the prize” and that “the debate should be kind and civil”. Earlier, Ms Chakrabarti said “Politics is not sport, it’s not punditry, it’s not something to bet on, it’s something to deliver.”

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