LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn had a “toxic” impact on Labour’s vote share throughout the UK, Tory MP and Brexiteer Mark Francois has said, as he struggled to find a Labour voter.
Mr Francois, deputy chairman of the European Research Group, was speaking after romping to victory in the Rayleigh and Wickford constituency he had held since 2010, having previously represented the Rayleigh seat for eight years prior to a boundary shake-up. The 54-year-old, who campaigned extensively not just in his own constituency but elsewhere, said: “Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely toxic on my doorsteps, everywhere I went.
“I have suspected privately for weeks that something like this was going to happen.”
He and other Tory activists had canvassed extensively in neighbouring Thurrock, he explained, and were therefore “very familiar” with the voter profile.
Mr Francois added: “When we went this time, five weeks ago we were out in the dark and the wet, canvassing a very shall we say down-to-earth white, working class ward in Thurrock.
“At the end of two hours of door knocking I did not find one single Labour voter, not one.
“So I came back to Rayleigh that night and thought there is something extraordinary going on here.
“And so during the course of the campaign I visited 15 other constituencies one time, everywhere from Sunderland to Mansfield, and everywhere I went you found the same.
“Corbyn was toxic wherever you went.”
Mr Francois suggested Labour had been undone by a “sort of double-whammy”.
He added: “It was definitely get Brexit done, including in the so-called red wall.
“But also it was undoubtedly Corbyn because what you found was talking to self-confessed lifelong Labour voters, they did not say ‘I’m not going to vote Labour’.
“Almost to a man or woman, they said ‘I’m not going to vote for Corbyn’, or ‘that bloke’, or ‘that IRA lover’.
“One way or another sometimes politely sometimes not, Labour voters were telling me everywhere I went round the country they were not going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.”
Mr Corbyn has been dogged by claims about his perceived failure to deal with antisemitism in his party, as well as concerns about his left-wing agenda.
Speaking earlier today, he said: “This election was ultimately taken over by Brexit and we as a party represent people who voted both Remain and Leave.
“My whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try and bring people together, because ultimately the country has to come together.
Mr Corbyn added: “I’ve done everything I could to lead this party, I’ve done everything I could to develop its policies, and since I became leader the membership has more than doubled and the party has developed a very serious and fully costed manifesto, and I’ve received more personal abuse than any other leader has ever received by a great deal of the media.”
When asked if Labour’s policies were too left-wing for the electorate, Mr Corbyn said: “Is ending Universal Credit, paying the WASPI women and having a green industrial revolution too left wing?
“They are huge issues that face our country, and I think our manifesto did face up to all of that.”
Addressing criticisms of his leadership, Mr Corbyn said: “Of the attacks that have been made on me, I have dealt with the issues that have been raised.”
He added: “I think antisemitism is an absolute evil curse on our society and I always condemn it and always will.”
I have suspected privately for weeks that something like this was going to happen