Len McCluskey says Jeremy Corbyn would be PM by now if he hadn't been 'knifed by our own side'
Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister by now if he had not been "knifed" by Labour MPs, Len McCluskey has claimed.
In a fiery intervention at Labour's annual conference, the Unite general secretary - a close ally of Mr Corbyn - hit out at Labour "grandees" and MPs for trying to oust the opposition leader in an unsuccessful no-confidence push before the 2017 snap vote.
His comments came just hours after Mr McCluskey was part of a botched attempt to remove Tom Watson as Labour's deputy leader.
Speaking at a fringe event on the first day of the conference, Mr McCluskey said: "We had a number of PLP members - Labour Party members - moving a vote of no-confidence, quite disgracefully - and he hadn’t been in power for one year, forcing another election.
"Well, weren’t they sorry about that because the membership overwhelmingly put him back into power because they wanted something different?
"And then the general election: he takes us within touching distance of power. Political commentators… say that if the election had have carried on for two more weeks Corbyn would have been in Number 10.
"I often think to myself if Jeremy hadn’t been knifed in the back by some of our own then he would’ve been in Number 10."
The blast at Labour's own MPs came as the Unite boss called for "unity" following the failed attempt to scrap the post of deputy leader.
The move, spearheaded by Momentum boss Jon Lansman and backed by Unite, saw Labour's ruling national executive committee on Friday night put forward a motion that blasted Mr Watson's "disloyalty" over Brexit and said his role should be scrapped.
Although Mr Lansman failed to get the number of votes required to pass the motion, it was put on the agenda for another NEC meeting on Saturday morning.
But Mr Corbyn stepped with a compromise which will see Mr Watson remain in his post, at least in the short-term.
Mr McCluskey told a separate rally hosted by the Morning Star newspaper on Saturday night: "We need unity behind our leader. I hope Tom Watson is listening."
And he said: "This is a pre-election rally and we need to make certain that we stay united.
"The media are here desperately hoping that they can talk about division."
He urged Labour members: "If we stay united, comrades, if we stay behind the man who has injected hope into our party and into our nation I am confident that when we go into a general election our message will be heard."
Meanwhile Mr Watson, who had early condemned the attempt to do away with his job in a "drive-by shooting", told the BBC the row over his post had harmed Labour as its conference kicks off in Brighton.
He said: "I think it’s very sad. We’re supposed to be here this week to fight Boris Johnson, to outline our positive vision for the country at a general election and I think it’s been undermined on day one.
"And I’m particularly disappointed with Jon Lansman, the boss of Momentum, because I think he’s not just undermined me, I think he’s undermined Jeremy, he’s undermined the party and frankly, I think he’s undermined the Momentum delegates here this week, because they want to talk about a positive alternative for the country as well.
But he added: "I always forgive and forget."
Touching on the bitter row at his own speech to the LabourList event, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth quipped: "Us politicians have got to be careful this week. I wouldn't want Jon Lansman to try and abolish me."