Labour deputy leadership candidate Ian Murray has said the party needs to stop thinking Conservative voters “are all b*****ds” if it wants to regain power.
In an interview with Yahoo News UK, Murray said “the whole point” of winning elections is converting Tory voters, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are still failing to grasp this after Labour’s worst election defeat since 1935.
Murray, who is now Labour’s only MP in Scotland, launched a broadside at Corbyn, saying “I’m not even sure he wanted to be prime minister” and that he doesn’t understand the “aspiration” of working class voters.
The Edinburgh South MP is presenting himself as the “change” candidate in the deputy leadership election, compared to Corbyn frontbench allies Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner and – to a lesser extent – Rosena Allin-Khan.
Murray claimed a close Corbyn associate, who he didn’t want to name, derided his 11,095 majority in December’s general election despite being the only Labour candidate to hold their seat in Scotland.
He said: “I was accused by someone in the Labour leadership of only winning my seat because I got Tories, Liberals and Nationals to vote for me. He said it in a rather accusatory fashion. I thought that was the whole point!
“The Labour Party can’t continue with this ‘if you vote Tory, you’re all b*****ds’. It’s people that vote Tory that we need to vote Labour.
“The scale of that challenge is huge. We need to win a 10% or 11% swing and that’s unprecedented in British political history. Unless there’s even an acknowledgement of the scale of the challenge, I’m not sure how we can sort it.”
Murray has unashamedly welcomed Tony Blair’s backing of his candidacy, and is the only contender in either leadership contest to praise his government’s record.
On Thursday, a YouGov survey demonstrated just how toxic Blair – the only Labour leader to win an election since 1974 – remains among the electorate, with only 22% of Brits thinking he was good for the party.
Murray said: “It will be 31 years in 124 years [that Labour has been in power during its existence] by the time the next election comes around. Given the relatively small amount of time it has been in power, when it is in power it can transform the country.
“It creates the NHS, it creates the welfare state, it creates devolution, it creates the Open University, it creates a much more transformative society. We should champion that and I’m the only deputy leadership candidate that hasn’t trashed the record of the previous Labour government.
“How can we possibly expect the public to trust us again if we can’t point to the fact we did good things in the past?”
Murray has said one of his priorities as deputy leader is to visit every constituency Labour has lost, gained and “never win” in order to “find out what we need to do to fix it”.
He visited Scunthorpe last week, one of many traditional Labour seats lost to the Tories in the election as Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority.
“People were telling us: ‘All we want from the Labour Party is a greater shake of the stick. We don’t want to be told how to run our lives, we want to have hope and aspiration, we want to have policies that talk about our future. We want a decent job, the ability to have a decent house and decent things for our kids and grandkids. We want to get on in life.’
“The Labour Party used to represent that working class aspiration, but they didn’t feel as if it did and that sums up the current position of the party.”
As scathing as he is of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (“He was all about trying to win the Labour Party rather than win the country”), Murray said he is even more worried about the two most powerful men in government: Boris Johnson and his senior adviser, Dominic Cummings.
He said of the PM: “He’s used the term ‘tank top bum boys’, he’s used the term ‘letterboxes’ [to describe Muslim women wearing burkas]. He’s very much a Trump character.
“He says these things to be deliberately controversial but I also think he believes some of them. That is not where we need to be. We need role models at the top of our politics, whatever party.
“He’s certainly a misogynist, he’s undoubtedly a liar. Is he a racist? People can make their own mind up with the stuff he says.”
Of Cummings, who Murray has never met and only seen “skulking in the shadows” in Westminster, he said: “He’s de facto PM and I really worry about the democratic process.
“He’s ruthless in Downing Street and none of it is about the country, it’s about the party and winning.
“He disagrees with judges and tries to shut the judges down. He disagrees with the civil service and tries to change it. He disagrees with hard-working members of staff with cabinet members so he sacks them. He bans the press from lobby briefings at Downing Street because he doesn’t want to be held to account.
“All of that’s incredibly dangerous.”
The ballots for Labour’s leadership and deputy leadership elections open on Monday.
Ian Murray: Quick-fire questions
Sum up the Corbyn leadership in one word.
What was your last conversation with Corbyn?
It was in 2017, the first day back at Parliament when he congratulated me on being re-elected. I’ve not spoken to him since.
Who is your favourite Labour leader of your lifetime?
What was your first thought when you saw the exit poll on election night?
I knew this was coming. This is even worse than I thought.
Would you like Corbyn to be in the shadow cabinet?
If you don’t become deputy leader, which of the other four candidates would you like to win?
Any of the other continuity candidates as I’m the only one offering change.
How many Tory MPs are you friendly with?
Between a dozen and 20.
Out of all the Tory MPs, who do you respect the most?