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George Osborne: Labour would be 20 points ahead of the Tories if Jeremy Corbyn wasn't leader

3 min read

Labour would be 20 points ahead of Theresa May's government in the opinion polls if Jeremy Corbyn was not the party's leader, George Osborne has claimed.

The former Chancellor said even a "middling" Labour leader would be doing far better than Mr Corbyn.

The parties are virtually neck-and-neck in most polls, although one at the weekend gave Labour an eight-point lead.

In a clear swipe at the Prime Minister, Mr Osborne - who is now editor of the Evening Standard - said the fact that Mr Corbyn's party was even in the running for power was "a reflection of the state of the Conservative party".

Speaking at a Westminster lunch, he said: "Political parties and governments ultimately succeed or fail by the big choices that they make. The Labour party chose to change its leadership rules, the new membership of the Labour party chose to head to the political fringes and the Labour movement now lives with the consequences of that big decision.

"In my view for all his ability to connect to younger and more disillusioned voters, Jeremy Corbyn remains the biggest obstacle to Labour winning an election. If the party was led by a more moderate social democrat of even middling ability then they would now be 20 points ahead in the polls and on the cusp of power.

"Instead, the Labour movement is consumed by an internal battle for its soul and the reason why the Evening Standard is giving extensive coverage to the deselection of long-standing Labour councillors in Haringey by Momentum is because it's not just a London story, it is a national story.

"The fact that a fringe far-left Labour leadership is even in contention for national office is, I'm afraid, a reflection of the state of the Conservative party."


In another attack on Mrs May - who sacked Mr Osborne when she became Prime Minister - the former Chancellor suggested the Conservatives were now at odds with the liberal views of most voters.

He said: "If we present ourselves to the country as anti-modern, anti-immigrant, anti-urban, anti-metropolitan, then huge sections of the country will be anti-us. We saw that, frankly at the last general election and we may see it in the London elections in a few months time. Change in a progressive country is constant and it is pointless resisting it. Instead, Conservatives should run with it and shape it."

Elsewhere, Mr Osborne predicted that Mrs May will be gone by the time the next election is due to take place in 2022 as an increasing number of Tory MPs lose faith in her leadership.

He said: "The essential question is going to be is there going to be a change of leader in this Parliament?

"The Conservative Parliamentary Party assumes there will be, the Prime Minister has said nothing about that. And at some point that is going to come to a head."

He added: "I make the observation that it's the consensus view of the Conservative Parliamentary Party that the leadership should change so at some point something will happen."

Mr Osborne - who has taken on a number of other jobs since stepping down as an MP at the election - also refused to rule out a return to frontline politics, saying: "Never say never."

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