11 December 2019 00:45

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General election 2019: Jonathan Ashworth apologises after Corbyn criticism leak

Dave Merritt, whose son Jack was stabbed to death in the chest on 29 November, condemned the prime minister for seeing "opportunity" not "tragedy" in an exclusive interview with Sky News. He said Mr Johnson's call, in the wake of the attack by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, to end the early release of those guilty of extremism offences was a "knee-jerk reaction" and "an ill-considered intervention". A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said: "The prime minister has expressed his deepest condolences to Mr Merritt for his tragic loss - an experience no family should have to go through. Jack Merritt, a 25-year-old University of Cambridge graduate, had been working at a prisoners rehabilitation conference called "Learning Together" and was "passionate" about "helping people to redeem themselves", his father told Sky News' Beth Rigby. Speaking from his home in Cambridge, Dave Merritt said: "What was required was just a dignified approach, whereby the politicians would express their regrets, express their condolences to the people affected and would then get on with campaigning in the election - it wasn't an election issue." Asked how he responds to claims he also politicised his son's death, Mr Merritt, who urged people on Twitter to "vote tactically to defeat the Tories", said he was just channelling what Jack would have wanted.

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Boris Johnson does not look like a prime minister who believes he is just about to lose the office he has coveted since boyhood. But, right on cue, the prime minister delivers the most damaging blunder of his campaign so far, by refusing to look at a picture of a sick boy sleeping on the floor of Leeds hospital and pocketing the phone of a journalist who tried to show it to him. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Boris Johnson being questioned over the picture of the ill child sleeping on the floor of Leeds hospital by an ITV journalist. With such mixed views, Tory candidates are still extremely nervous, remembering the false optimism of 2017 and unfounded fears of some Labour MPs who thought they would lose their seats but ended up with increased majorities. Jon Ashworth says leaked audio of him talking about 'dire' electoral chances for Labour and criticising Jeremy Corbyn was 'just banter' Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said that leaked audio recording of him, in which he is heard criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn while claiming the situation for his party is "dire" was simply "banter with an old friend".

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The Guido Fawkes website published an audio recording of remarks made by Mr Ashworth in which he said the civil service machine would "pretty quickly move to safeguard security" if Mr Corbyn entered Number 10. Minutes after the audio was published, Mr Ashworth insisted he was joking with a Tory friend and did not mean what he said, when he appeared on the BBC programme. If you leak it to Guido Fawkes of course it makes me look like a right plonker but its not what I mean when I'm winding up a friend - I'm trying to sort of pull his leg a bit," he said. Asked if he thought Mr Corbyn was a threat to national security, Mr Ashworth replied: "No, of course I don't [...] I'm joshing around with somebody who I thought was an old friend, who has now leaked it to Guido Fawkes, an old friend who I've known for many years. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured speaking in Southport, as voters remain undecided (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire) In the leaked comments, published on the Tory-supporting website, Mr Ashworth can be heard saying: "I've been going round these national places, it's dire for Labour… it's dire… it's awful for them, and it's the combination of Corbyn and Brexit… outside of the city seats… it's abysmal out there… Responding to Mr Ashworth's comments, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said: "This is an honest and truly devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership by one of his most trusted election lieutenants.

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"He admits that Labour has blocked Brexit and that is why voters 'can't stand Corbyn'. As Ashworth himself says, only a vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will mean we can get Brexit done." Labour's Jonathan Ashworth has apologised to his party after criticising Jeremy Corbyn in a secret recording by his Tory activist friend. In a recording leaked to Tory-supporting website Guido Fawkes, Mr Ashworth is heard saying he did not believe Labour would win the election. The conversation appears to have been recorded over a week ago and Mr Ashworth said: "The reason this has come out today is because the Tories know the crisis in the NHS is ruining their campaign and we've got babies - babies - on the front page of the Daily Mirror unable to get a bed." Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Corbyn dismissed claims that he was a "problem on the doorstep" for Labour activists, saying it was "not a presidential election". On Labour's election chances, Mr Ashworth is heard saying: "I've been going round these national places, it's dire for Labour… it's dire.

Speaking to the Victoria Derbyshire programme, Mr Ashworth said: "Of course it makes me look like a right plonker, but it's not what I mean when I'm winding up a friend, trying to sort of, pull his leg a bit." He said he was "having a bit of banter" with his friend "because he was saying 'oh, the Tories are going to lose' and I was, like saying, 'no you're going to be fine', joshing as old friends do. When asked if he believed, as the recording suggested, that Mr Corbyn was a threat to the UK's national security, Mr Ashworth replied: "Of course I don't." Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson said Mr Ashworth was "saying what hundreds of Labour candidates and millions of voters are thinking", adding that Mr Corbyn was "unfit to be PM because he is blocking Brexit". Mr Ashworth's remarks were "an honest and truly devastating assessment" of Mr Corbyn's leadership "by one of his most trusted election lieutenants", Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said. Here you have the man who is meant to be fronting Labour's attack on the NHS basically saying they haven't a hope of winning, that voters believe they blocked Brexit and they don't like Jeremy Corbyn. On the case of a sick four-year-old boy who was photographed on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary, Mr Corbyn said it was an example of what was happening in the NHS.

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