Former Labour Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics, welcomed the new opposition leader’s move to come out in favor of Britain’s membership of the European Union.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by how united the party is on Europe,” Mandelson said in a panel discussion on Monday at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, on England’s south coast. Acknowledging he had concerns about Corbyn’s position on the EU initially, he described the new leader’s stance as “refreshingly clear.”
Mandelson had warned during the Labour leadership contest that Corbyn’s election might spell the end of the party. Corbyn had at first cast doubt on whether he would campaign for the U.K. to stay in the bloc in a referendum planned by the end of 2017.
The former business secretary said that rather than following the 1970s-style yearning among some of his supporters for a “siege economy” style of socialism, Corbyn had given the assurance that Labour, “under his leadership, will not under any circumstances campaign for Britain’s exit from the EU, and I take him at his word.”
Chuka Umunna, who was Labour business spokesman under the previous leader, Ed Miliband, and decided not to serve under Corbyn because of their diverging views about the EU, also adopted a more conciliatory tone.
During Monday’s panel discussion, Umunna described his departure from Labour’s front ranks as the result of a “pleasant” conversation that led to him agreeing not to take a prominent role and that he did not intend to defy his party.