“Sanctimonious” Jeremy Corbyn should not have the Labour whip reinstated in order to prevent him from “infiltrating” the party with his far-left views, according to a former cabinet minister.
Alan Johnson, a former home secretary and vocal critic of former leader Mr Corbyn, said those with far-left views needed to “stand on their beliefs” and “not try and infiltrate the Labour Party”.
Mr Johnson quit as an MP in the run-up to the snap 2017 general election called by former prime minister Theresa May.
Labour fared better than expected in that poll, with the party making ground to deliver a hung parliament.
However, two years later when faced with Boris Johnson as Conservative leader, Mr Corbyn led the party to its heaviest general election loss since before the Second World War.
Acting as a political pundit on ITV when the December 2019 exit poll predicting heavy Labour losses was published, Mr Johnson famously said Mr Corbyn was a “disaster on the doorsteps” and that he “couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag”.
Mr Corbyn lost the Labour whip in 2020 over his response to the equalities watchdog’s report into antisemitism in the party, an issue that dogged his leadership of almost five years.
Although he was reinstated as a Labour member after a suspension, his successor Sir Keir Starmer has refused to readmit him to the parliamentary party.
Mr Johnson – who tipped shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy as a Labour MP who could be a future prime minister – said Mr Corbyn should be left to remain as an independent.
Asked by GB News whether the Islington North MP should have the whip restored, the ex-health secretary said: “No way. Leave it where he is, and he’ll be happy and sanctimonious and pious where he is, leave him there.
“I mean, these people are out there, and they’re entitled to their beliefs, but they’ve got to stand on their beliefs, not try and infiltrate the Labour Party.
“The Labour Party has never been to the far left. The trade unionists who formed the Labour Party famously said, ‘more to Methodism than Marxism’.”
In an interview due to be broadcast on Monday, the former Hull West and Hessle MP accused the far left of trying to “steal our clothes” as a means of gaining backing among Labour communities.
“This was the most successful attempt at it (under Mr Corbyn’s leadership), and it ended in the disaster that we saw,” he told the channel’s Life and Times political programme.
Sir Keir, asked in April about Mr Corbyn’s call for the Western military alliance Nato to be disbanded, told the BBC it was “very difficult to see how” he could be restored as a Labour MP with such views.
The question of who the next Labour leader will be has raised its head again after Sir Keir pledged to stand down if handed a fixed-penalty notice by Durham Police following the so-called Beergate incident.
The force is investigating whether Covid rules were breached by the opposition leader and his team by having a takeaway curry and beer together in an MP’s office while campaigning in April 2021 when pandemic restrictions were in place.
London Mayor and prominent Labour politician Sadiq Khan told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme he is “not at all” interested in succeeding Sir Keir if he resigns.
Mr Johnson, asked who he believed was “one to watch” in the party, cited Wigan MP Ms Nandy, who came third in the 2020 leadership race won by Sir Keir.
During the interview, Mr Johnson, 72, who has turned his hand to fiction writing since leaving the Commons, was also asked about the New Labour years.
He described Sir Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who was chancellor in Sir Tony’s administrations for a decade before taking over from him as prime minister in 2007, as being like “Lennon and McCartney” of The Beatles and argued that if the handover between them had been better then Labour “could have still been in power”.