Former chancellor George Osborne says Labour would be 20 points ahead in polls and “on the cusp of power” if Jeremy Corbyn were not leader.
The Evening Standard editor told a Commons press gallery lunch he believed the Islington MP remained the party’s biggest obstacle to winning an election – while lamenting the state of the Conservative government.
He said: “If the party was led by a more moderate social democrat, of even middling ability, they would now be 20 points ahead in the polls and on the cusp of power.
“Instead the Labour movement is consumed by an internal battle for its soul.”
He said the paper he now edits was giving “extensive coverage” to Labour councillor selection battles in London was because he believed the issue was of national importance.
“It’s not just a London story, it is a national story,” he said.
“The fact that a fringe far-left Labour leadership is even in contention for national office is, I am afraid, a reflection of the state of the Conservative party.
“When I became an MP the Tory party had tested to destruction the theory that if you set out being against much of the country, then much of the country will be against you.
“And some of us had already begun the journey of trying to change our party and to make it economically credible and more connected with modern Britain.”
He said Theresa May’s government risked turning the electorate against them if they listened to the demands of hard Brexiteers within the Conservative party.
“Those who say we should only listen to the 52%, that the 48% should put up and shut up, should be told they are making a huge mistake,” the former Tatton MP said.
“A mistake we paid for heavily this June.”
He added: “The Evening Standard will be standing up for its readers in all of these fights. We will report truth about the hard left takeover of the Labour Party and we will expose the false arguments and broken promises of the hard Brexiteers.
“Because the future lies with those who are able to bring the country together.”