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Labour’s election campaign suffers blow as ex-MP urges voters to back Tories

Ian Austin said the Labour leader is ‘not fit to lead’.

Former Labour MP Ian Austin (Victoria Jones/PA)
Former Labour MP Ian Austin (Victoria Jones/PA)

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Labour’s General Election campaign has suffered a major blow as one of the party’s former MPs urged voters to back Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Austin said the Labour leader was “not fit to lead” as he vowed to do “everything” he could to stop Mr Corbyn entering Number 10.

It came as the Jewish Chronicle newspaper published a stark front page urging voters not to back Labour because of Mr Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism within the party.

The paper said the “near total inaction of Mr Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership in dealing with anti-Semites in the party has both emboldened them and encouraged others” – accusing Mr Corbyn and his allies of having “actively impeded action against the racists.”

“If this man is chosen as our next prime minister, the message will be stark: that our dismay that he could ever be elevated to a prominent role in British politics, and our fears of where that will lead, are irrelevant.”

Mr Austin, who is not contesting the Dudley North seat he has held since 2005, told the Express & Star newspaper: “I must do everything I can to stop Jeremy Corbyn from getting into power.”

The long-time critic of Mr Corbyn and a former adviser to Gordon Brown quit Labour in February in response to what he claimed was a “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”.

He said “decent patriotic Labour voters” should vote Tory to help Mr Johnson get the majority he needs to stop Mr Corbyn from entering Number 10, adding that the opposition leader was “too big a risk”.

His intervention came just hours after Labour deputy leader Tom Watson – who has also been publicly critical of the leadership’s attempts to tackle anti-Semitism in the party – announced he is standing down, saying the time was right for him to step away from politics.

After a turbulent start to the election campaign for the two main parties, Labour and the Tories will seek to focus on the economy on Thursday.

John McDonnell will pledge an “irreversible shift” in wealth in favour of working people, while Tories will warn Labour’s “fantasy economics” would wreck the recovery.

Speaking in Liverpool, the shadow chancellor will say that if Labour gain power on December 12, they will deliver a programme of investment “on a scale never seen before in this country”.

However, his Conservative counterpart Sajid Javid will accuse Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn of behaving like “anti-vaxxers” on the economy.

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(PA Graphics)

In an speech in Manchester, he will say a Labour government would take “every step imaginable” to make the country “sick and unhealthy” again.

In other developments:

– Boris Johnson will make his first foray of the campaign into Scotland where the Tories are fighting to hang on to seats won in the 2017 election.

– The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have announced details of a pact not to stand against each other in 60 seats.

– Jeremy Corbyn will unveil Labour’s campaign bus, featuring the slogan “It’s time for real change”.

Speaking in his home city of Liverpool, Mr McDonnell will announce plans for a “social transformation fund”, investing £150 billion in schools, hospitals, care homes and council housing over five years.

At the same time he will promise to break up the Treasury, devolving some of its powers to the north in a shift in the “centre of political gravity” away from London.

Treasury ministerial meetings will no longer take place solely in the capital and ministers will have an office in the north as well as Whitehall.

“Our aim as a Labour government is to achieve what past Labour governments have aspired to,” he will say.

“An irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people.

“That means change, means investment on a scale never seen before in this country, and certainly never seen before in the North and outside of London and the South East.”

PA

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