Owen Smith has said Labour could have won the general election had he been party leader instead of Jeremy Corbyn.
Smith, who lost a leadership battle against Corbyn last year, was appointed shadow Northern Ireland secretary following the election.
Asked by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge if he thought he would have done as well as Corbyn did at the election, Smith said: “I don’t know, I hope so. I hope I might have even got us to win, but I can’t know that.”
“We haven’t won, unfortunately, but it’s an excellent performance and Jeremy Corbyn needs to be congratulated for it,” he added.
“I think Jeremy has clearly galvanised young people in this country. We’ve seen that not just in the election, but since.
“I met people during the election who hadn’t voted ever, certainly people who hadn’t voted for a long while, who felt Jeremy was speaking to and for them and that Labour was speaking to and for them. I don’t think any of us can argue with that.
“And therefore I think he’s earned the right to try and get Labour into power and earned the right to be out next prime minister.”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson today said Corbyn’s position is now “completely secure” following rifts between factions in the party since his election nearly two years ago.