Britain would be three years into a Jeremy Corbyn-led government if not for the “disloyalty and disgraceful behaviour” of some Labour MPs, according to deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon

The shadow justice secretary also insisted the party had no future politically, morally or electorally if its anti-austerity agenda is dropped and there is a return to the “days of Labour leaders not supporting strikes”.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Burgon, who is vying for the deputy leadership vacancy on a platform of defending Mr Corbyn’s policy agenda, hit out at internal critics of the Labour leader.

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Referring to the failed attempt by Owen Smith to challenge Mr Corbyn for the leadership after the EU referendum, Mr Burgon said: “If it hadn’t been for the disloyalty and disgraceful behaviour by members of the parliamentary Labour Party in 2016, we’d be three years into a Labour government now.” 

The senior Labour MP added that he believed the party could have won the 2019 December election “if it hadn’t been for Brexit”, claiming: “It wasn’t our socialist policies that caused us to lose a general election.

“I also think the right-wing press upped its game when it came to the demonisation of a decent man in Jeremy Corbyn. In 2017, we had a socialist leader, Jeremy. We came close to winning, it was an electoral advance. If only we’d won.” 

On the prospect of Sir Keir Starmer moving the party back towards the centre ground if he became leader, Mr Burgon continued: “I think we need to ensure we keep our socialist policies by ensuring we have a democratic members-led party.”

Asked if he would be worried by such an approach, Mr Burgon replied: “I don’t think there’s a future for the Labour Party politically, morally or electorally by trying to triangulate our way back to power.

“We can’t drop our anti-austerity politics, we can’t return to the days of the ‘controls on immigration’ mugs, the days of supporting illegal wars, the days of Labour leaders not supporting strikes, the days of only opposing Tory cuts and supporting austerity as long as it doesn’t go too far too fast.

“We can’t go back to the future.”

Mr Burgon, who is backing Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader, insisted he is a “team player”, before adding: “Whoever is elected as leader of the Labour Party, they won’t have a mandate to ditch a single socialist policy from the last two manifestos without the express permission of Labour members.

“But whoever is elected Labour leader, I’ll be laser-focused on getting them into No 10 Downing Street.”

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