Jonathan Ashworth dismisses attack on Jeremy Corbyn as ‘banter’

Mr Ashworth has apologised for his remarks

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has dismissed a damning assessment he made about Jeremy Corbyn as “banter” as he apologised to party members for the remarks.

In a leaked recording, the shadow cabinet minister said the situation facing Labour in the last days of the general election campaign was “abysmal”.

“They don’t like Johnson but they can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit.

“I think kind of middle class, graduates, sort of Remain-y people, Labour’s probably doing well, Lib Dems are probably doing well but not in big enough numbers to deny the Tories a majority,” he said in a phone call disclosed to the political blog Guido Fawkes.

Mr Ashworth also claimed that the Civil Service would “pretty quickly move to safeguard security” if Mr Corbyn entered Number 10.

But the shadow health secretary, who is seen as a key ally of the Labour leader, later defended the comments as “joking around” in a conversation with Conservative friend Greig Baker.

He admitted the comments had made him “look like a right plonker” but said it was all an attempt to “psych out” the campaigner for the rival party.

"We're having banter with each other - we're joking around.

“I know he’s an activist in Canterbury, I’m trying to make him complacent,” he told Victoria Derbyshire on Politics Live.

Boris Johnson claimed on Twitter that Mr Ashworth’s remarks reflected “what hundreds of Labour candidates and millions of voters are thinking”.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister has himself faced criticism for his response to last month’s London Bridge terror attack.

David Merritt, father of Jack Merritt who was killed in the attack, accused Mr Johnson of seeing the stabbings as an “opportunity” to score political points.

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