Labour frontbencher says Tories will win election as voters 'can’t stand Corbyn' in leaked phone call
A Labour frontbencher has forecast that Boris Johnson is going to win the election as voters "can’t stand Jeremy Corbyn".
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth's comments came in a secretly-recorded phone conversation with a Tory activist friend and published by the Guido Fawkes website.
In it, Mr Ashworth says the situation for his party is “dire” and that Labour candidates had told him "it’s awful for them, and it’s the combination of Corbyn and Brexit".
He said “outside of the city seats” people “can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit”.
And on the prospect of Labour winning, he added: "I just can’t see it happening."
Mr Ashworth also appeared to so suggest his own party leader was a security risk, and the civil service would have to step in to protect the UK if he was elected Prime Minister.
"I think the machine will pretty quickly move to safeguard security," he said.
"But it’s not going to happen. I can’t see it happening."
The leading moderate who has been one of Labour's most prominent media performers during the election campaign, also said the party's MPs “f***ed it up in 2016 when we went too early” to try and remove Mr Corbyn as leader.
Appearing on BBC Two’s Victoria Live show just minutes after the recording was leaked, Mr Ashworth insisted had been having "banter" with Greig Baker, chairman of the Canterbury branch of the Conservative Party, about their respective parties' chances of winning Thursday’s election.
“It’s a bit of joshing, because he’s an activist, it’s a bit like saying to your mate who’s a fan of a rival football team,” he told presenter Victoria Derbyshire.
“You’re trying to unnecessarily boost their ego and make them become complacent.”
He said he was “saddened” Mr Baker had leaked the call: "He was my friend, I went to America with this guy 15 years ago and he’s leaked it all. I can’t believe it."
Asked if he meant the comments about Labour’s chances Mr Ashworth said: “We're having banter with each other - we're joking around.”
He added: "No I don't mean it because I'm joking around with my mate because he's a Tory.
“If you leak it to Guido Fawkes of course it makes me look like a right plonker but it’s not what I mean when I'm winding up a friend, I'm trying to sort of pull his leg a bit."
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said: "This is an honest and truly devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership by one of his most trusted election lieutenants.
"He admits that Labour has blocked Brexit and that is why voters 'can't stand Corbyn'.
“If even Corbyn's closest political allies think he is unfit to be Prime Minister, why on earth should voters be expected to put their trust in him and them?”
Mr Baker has not responded to a request for comment.