Labour stalwart Harriet Harman claims she would have won had she been in the running to be party leader in 2010.
The twice-former acting leader said she felt at the time it would be “counterintuitive” to put herself forward and that she expected Gordon Brown’s successor to be “one of the young Turks” like David Miliband or Ed Balls.
Speaking to the BBC’s Peter Hennessy for Radio 4′s Reflections, Harman said there was “no sense anywhere, as there often is with women, that I was leadership material”, but that she received compliments when she took on the role on a temporary basis when Brown stood down after Labour’s general election defeat.
“Going around the country party members were saying, ‘you’re nailing it, we’re so proud of you, why aren’t you standing for leader?’,“she added.
“And I was so relieved not to be cocking the whole thing up that I took it as a great compliment, but I didn’t go that next step and think they’re asking me why I’m not going for leader. Why aren’t I? I just never got to that point.
“And it was clear then, as it turns out, that the party hadn’t taken to David Miliband, they didn’t elect him. And they hardly knew Ed Miliband, but they elected him, whereas they did know me and they did like and support me.
“So I think if I’d have stood I definitely would have got it. Whether I’d have made a success about it well, we never know, but I think I would have got it.”
Harman, who headed up Labour for a second stint between Ed Miliband’s resignation and Jeremy Corbyn’s first victory, has previously shied away from making claims about her potential leadership success.
Parliament’s longest-serving female MP, she also told the programme Labour’s 2015 manifesto “had more about football supporters and animal rights than it had about women” and about how she once shielded her baby’s eyes from then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
“Now when I look back on that I think that’s quite weird really,” she added.
“But it tells me not only how obsessed I was with my baby at the time and how completely smitten and my brain turned upside down, but my visceral hostility to the prime minister. I mean really visceral.”
In an echo of remarks made by new MP Laura Pidcock earlier this week, who told HuffPost UK she would “never be friends with Tory MPs”, Harman said she felt Theresa May was “very much in Thatcher mode”.
She added: “She is there proving she can do it as well or better than the men. She is not there to change the world to make it more equal for women. But some of the new generation of Conservative women MPs are more like the daughters of the women’s movement and I find them quite perplexing because they have a commitment to child care, they have a commitment to tackling domestic violence.
“They really believe in strong maternity rights. And I keep thinking, you’re in the wrong party then. You should be in the Labour Party.
“But I think that that generation of Conservative women, in whom I include Theresa May, they had no instinct of the fight for equality and the determination to make change. They wanted to succeed within the system as it was. We wanted to change the system.”