Former Labour minister backs Tories as he claims Jeremy Corbyn ‘can’t be trusted with the Union’
A former minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has called on voters to reject Jeremy Corbyn and back Boris Johnson because the Labour leader cannot be “trusted” with the Union.
In comments that were immediately pounced on by the Conservatives, Tom Harris said Mr Corbyn had “plunged Labour back to the days when the Trotskyist Militant tendency was a powerful force” and accused him of paving the way for a “divisive and unnecessary” second referendum on Scottish independence.
And he declared: “I was a holder of every level of office of the voluntary Labour Party at one time or another – and then became an MP and later a transport minister under Tony Blair.
“But next month, for the first time, I will not be voting for Labour. Instead, I will be backing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.”
The move to endorse the Tories comes after former Labour MP Ian Austin also backed Mr Johnson with a stinging attack on Mr Corbyn. Ex-MP John Woodcock is also openly campaigning against the Labour leader, who is kicking off a two-day visit to Scotland today.
While Scottish Labour is officially opposed to a second vote, frontbenchers including Mr Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have made clear that the party would not block a further SNP attempt to call one.
The Conservatives have meanwhile accused Mr Corbyn of “dancing to the SNP's tune” over a fresh referendum and warned that Labour could agree to a new vote in exchange for the SNP backing a minority government.
In an outspoken attack on that stance in the Daily Mail, former transport minister and MP Mr Harris said the Labour leader had “made it clear he has no love for the Union that binds our family of nations together”.
And he argued: “A man who has never failed to offer comfort to Britain’s enemies - whether the IRA, the Islamist terrorists of Hamas, or Iran or Russia or Cuba or Venezuela - can hardly be expected to feel any affection for the UK.
“When hundreds of Labour MPs representing English and Welsh constituencies made the journey to Glasgow one week before the independence referendum to help campaign for a No vote, Corbyn and his hard-Left allies found something, anything, more pressing to do in their constituencies.”
The ex-minister, a long-standing critic of Mr Corbyn who quit as a Labour member last year, said the party leader’s “own failures as a politician” would scupper his chances of an election majority and force him to rely on the SNP to form a government.
In that event, he said, the SNP “will be only too happy to put Corbyn into No 10, provided he agrees to give them the authority to hold that second divisive and unnecessary Scexit referendum”.
Mr Harris also broadened out his attack to accuse Mr Corbyn of being a “threat to national security”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a man who never fails to support the enemies of our country, whether that is being arrested during a demonstrations outside the Old Bailey when the Brighton bomber was being tried or calling Hamas terrorists his friends, or whether it's suggesting that, in response to the appalling attack on the Skripals in Salisbury that we ask the Kremlin if they did it.”
And the former Glasgow South MP meanwhile claimed that his take on the Labour leader was shared by a bulk of the party’s election candidates.
“My view of Corbyn is actually no different to the view of most Labour MPs,” he told Today.
“It’s just that they are keeping very quiet at the moment because there's an election.”
The attack on Mr Corbyn was swiftly backed by the Scottish Conservatives.
Former Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson shared the piece on social media, while the party said: “This is an important intervention from a highly respected former Labour MP.
“If Labour voters are serious about keeping Scotland in the UK and finally moving on from a decade of chaos and division, there really is only one party for them.”
But Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw shot back: “Tom Harris is a hard Brexiter, a Telegraph journalist & hasn’t been in the Labour Party for years.”