Two former Labour MPs have urged party supporters to vote for Boris Johnson with one saying Jeremy Corbyn is “unfit” to lead.
Ian Austin, who left the Labour party earlier this year, said he would lose friends over his plea as he gave an emotional interview on Kay Burley@Breakfast.
“I can’t really believe it’s come to this but I think I need to tell people that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t fit to lead the Labour Party,” Mr Austin said, adding: “He’s certainly not fit to lead the country.”
He was joined shortly after by John Woodcock, who is also standing down in this election, who said he would be voting Conservative despite being a Labour MP for years.
Mr Austin said: “The country faces a big choice and there’s only two people who can become prime minister on December 13th and I’ve come to the conclusion it can’t be Jeremy Corbyn, so it has to be Boris Johnson.
The 54-year-old, whose adoptive parents were Jewish, added: “I think people like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell spend their whole time in politics working with, defending, supporting all sorts of extremists. In some cases antisemites and terrorists.
“I think at every opportunity he backs our country’s enemies, whether that’s the IRA during the Troubles or calling Hamas and Hezbollah his friends, or paritying Putin when he sent hitmen to our country, to Salisbury.
“I don’t think he loves this country, I don’t think he’s a patriot. I’ve thought about this long and hard.”
Mr Austin became emotional as he said there will be “lifelong friends who are probably never going to speak to me after this”.
The former communities and local government minister added: “It’s heartbreaking, I think what’s happened to the Labour Party is a disaster, it’s a disaster for our country.
“I disagree with lots of things the Conservatives have done but I wouldn’t say they’re unfit to lead the country – so I’ve got to be honest about it.”
It compounded a furious attack on Jeremy Corbyn, in which he said the Labour leader cannot be trusted with defence and security and always seems to back the UK’s enemies.
Mr Austin wrote in his local paper, Wolverhampton Express and Star: “The Labour Party has been my life and until this year, I have only ever voted Labour.
“But it has really come to something when someone like me says traditional decent patriotic Labour voters should vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party this time.”
He adds: “It is too big a risk. That is why I think we should lend the Tories our votes at this election and stop Jeremy Corbyn getting anywhere near Downing Street.”
Mr Austin joined the Labour Party as a teenager and was a councillor before becoming Dudley’s MP and a minister under Gordon Brown, then quit the Labour Party in February over antisemitism in the party to become an independent.
On antisemitism, Mr Austin wrote: “My dad was a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust. My aunts and grandmother were murdered by the Nazis.
“I was brought up always to stand up to racism and prejudice. I have done that all my life and I could not stand by as the Labour Party has been poisoned by racism, extremism and intolerance under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
“I joined Labour to fight racism and I can’t believe I had to leave it to fight racism too.”
Mr Austin’s constituency, to the south of Wolverhampton and the west of Birmingham, is the fourth most marginal seat in the UK and will be a key battleground in the election.
And although Mr Austin supported Remain, Dudley North is also one of the most pro-Leave constituencies in the UK, having voted 71.4% Leave and 28.6% Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.
Mr Woodcock, who is leaving parliament as his partner, Isabel Hardman, is expecting a baby, said: “There are one of two people who are going to be prime minister after an election. It is Boris Johnson or it is Jeremy Corbyn.
“We pleaded with our friends in the Labour Party to face up to this choice, not to leave it until too late. Now all of that to an extent is water under the bridge, but we have arrived in a campaign where one of two people are going to be prime minister.
“The choice to keep Jeremy Corbyn away from Downing Street, to stop him getting his hands on the levers of national security and defence has to be to vote Conservative in this election and that’s what I’ll be doing as well.”
Analysis: Watson and Austin’s departures may herald end of Labour moderates
Back in February this year, after weeks of rumour and speculation, nine MPs left Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
They could no longer stand for inaction on antisemitism and the direction of the party’s leader on Brexit, the economy and national security.
One of those MPs was Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North for 14 years, a one-time junior minister and previously an aide to Gordon Brown.
The departures of Mr Austin and his fellow travellers lay bare how the Labour party has been completely, and maybe irretrievably, reshaped by its left-wing leadership. The centrists have been outmanoeuvred.
His push against Mr Corbyn came hours after Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, made the shock announcement he would be standing down.
Read the full story here.
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