ALaborshadow minister has said he was only joking and “joshing around” when he told a friend that his party would lose the general election.
Leaked tapes show Jonathan Ashworth said the situation for the party in seats like Mansfield and Ashfield was “dire” because of a “combination of Corbyn and Brexit”.
But he told BBC News: “I’m joshing around with somebody who I thought was an old friend who’s now leaked it to Guido Fawkes [a blog]. He’s a Tory and we’ve always had a bit of banter together. I’m winding him up, teasing him. “
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He added: “We are going to win, we’re going to win this general election, because people are fed up with the Tory cuts to the general election and they’re fed ups with the waiting lists going higher and higher. “
Mr Ashworth said he had been made to look like a “plonker” by his friend, a former Conservative MP, who sent the tape of their conversation to Tory attack blog Guido Fawkes.
The tapes show Mr Ashworth telling his friend: “They can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit. I think middle-class graduates – remainy people – Laborer’s doing well among … but not in big enough numbers to deny the Tories a majority. “
Most polls agree with Mr Ashworth’s assessment, though some point to a possible hung parliament, particularly if tactical voting is taken into account. A pre-election survey of political scientists carried out by the Political Studies Association (PSA) found that academics are divided on whether the Conservatives will win a majority.
James Cleverly, chair of the Conservative Party, said of the leaked recording: “This is an honest and truly devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by one of his most trusted election lieutenants.
“He admits that Labor 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?
“Corbyn’s Labor have broken their promises to the British people on Brexit and they will not be able to deliver their fantasy manifesto. As Ashworth himself says, only a vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will mean we can get Brexit done. ”