December 2, 2019 6:06:41 PM
Ex-Labour MP Ian Austin has written to thousands of voters in Labour marginal seats urging them to vote for Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn.
The former Dudley North representative hit headlines last month when he used broadcast interviews to encourage traditional Labour voters to switch their support to the Tories at this election.
And now, in a mass mail-out paid for by the Conservative Party, Mr Austin has written letters to voters in “various constituencies around the country” setting out why he is anti-Corbyn and asking them to “lend” Mr Johnson their votes.
According to those posting their letters on social media, many of the recipients live in constituencies that were won by slim majorities at the last election in 2017 by Labour.
Voters from Ipswich, Stroud, Ashfield, Bedford and Cardiff North – all seats held by Mr Corbyn’s party by fewer than 1,000 votes last time – have been posting copies of their letters from the ex-junior minister on social media.
Speaking to PA news agency, Mr Austin said: “I have made it absolutely clear that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to lead the Labour Party, never mind the country. I have written a letter to that effect.”
Mr Austin would not be drawn on how many voters had received the letter, or how the Tories had come to fund it being posted out.
The former ally to ex-prime minister Gordon Brown told recipients that “no-one” believes Mr Corbyn will deliver Brexit and that Labour’s plans for government would “put businesses, investment and jobs at risk”.
He added: “I know how hard it is for Labour voters to back the Tories, but at the end of this election, either Boris Johnson will be prime minister – or Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the choice.
“And I am worried that if Boris Johnson does not get a majority, the SNP will back Corbyn.
“It is too big a risk. That is why I think we should lend the Tories our votes and stop Jeremy Corbyn getting anywhere near Downing Street.”
The strapline at the bottom of the letter states: “Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”
The Tories are heavily targeting the Nottinghamshire constituency of Ashfield, where Labour holds a majority of less than 500 votes, and Stroud has been visited by Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister’s girlfriend, in an attempt to overturn Labour’s majority of less than 700 votes.
In Ipswich, Mr Corbyn’s party ousted then-paymaster general Ben Gummer in 2017, edging it by 831 votes.
Labour won Rother Valley – a Leave voting area in South Yorkshire – by just shy of 4,000 votes at the snap election two years ago, while swing seat Bedford was won by only 789 votes.
Before being elected in 2005, Mr Austin was a councillor in Dudley, a press officer for the Labour Party and a political adviser to Mr Brown while he was chancellor.
He resigned the party in February but remained an Independent MP for Dudley North, whose electorate voted by 71% to Leave, before standing down when the December 12 election was called.