Tories will struggle soiled in ultimate days, warns Labour marketing campaign strategist

The Tories will fight dirty in the final days of the election campaign in a desperate bid to cling to power, Jonathan Ashworth has warned.

The Labour campaign strategist said the party is braced for Rishi Sunak and his pals to get further into the “gutter” with smears aimed at Keir Starmer.

In an interview with the Mirror, the Shadow Paymaster General warned Labour voters not to repeat 1992 by believing the election has already been won. “Don’t make the mistakes that people made in the past when thinking it’s all over,” he said. “You may think it’s all over, it’s not yet.

“Look at what is at risk in this election. I think people will be asking themselves, how would they feel if they woke up the day after the election and the Tories have got in for another five years. How does that make you feel inside?”

Jonathan Ashworth put the Tory manifesto in a shredder

Jonathan Ashworth put the Tory manifesto in a shredder

The Labour frontbencher claimed that Rishi Sunak's promises are worthless

The Labour frontbencher claimed that Rishi Sunak’s promises are worthless

He added: “I remember going to bed aged 13 in 1992, absolutely convinced that Neil Kinnock was going to win. And that feeling of devastation, of dejection when we switched on the news the next morning. The Tories had squeaked over the line. Never ever again do I want to feel like that.”

Mr Ashworth said there are still “huge numbers of people out there who have not made up their mind”, as he warned against complacency. Labour believes the Tories will launch an onslaught of attacks on Mr Starmer in the coming days. “They’re already desperate, they’re already bankrupt of ideas,” Mr Ashworth said. “I’m sure they’ll get more in the gutter. There’ll be more smears and sniping from the Tories.”

The Labour frontbencher has become one of the party’s faces of the campaign, who has relished taking on the Tories in the TV debate spin rooms and even put Mr Sunak’s manifesto into a shredder live on telly during a press conference. But behind his jovial exterior the 45-year-old said his motivation to get Labour back into power and change the country comes from his difficult childhood growing up with an alcoholic dad.

Jonathan Ashworth as a baby in 1978 with his parents

Jonathan Ashworth as a baby in 1978 with his parents

His parents met when they both worked in the Playboy Casino in Manchester where his mum was a bunny girl, but they split up due to his drinking. His father, Jon, died suddenly aged 60.

Mr Ashworth said: “It was always there, constantly in my upbringing. Growing up there were times when I was almost looking after him. When he got me from school, he fell over literally near the school gates. I would go home and when I’d open the fridge there’d be nothing other than these big bottles of very cheap white wine that he’d bought from the off licence.

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“The constant drunkenness of somebody in the house, it really does demoralise, especially when you’re a teenager. His friends would think it was quite amusing because he was a fun drunk, life and soul of the party type drunk, which is fine if you’re at a party, but it’s not fun if you’re the kid picking up the pieces at the end of it.”

Mr Ashworth is about to become a patron of Nacoa (the National Association for Children of Alcoholics). The Labour frontbencher said he’d felt guilty after he first spoke publicly about his dad’s drink problem following his death, as he was worried he was “betraying his memory”.

The Mirror's John Stevens with Jonathan Ashworth

The Mirror’s John Stevens with Jonathan Ashworth
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)

But he told how he’d been stopped at a railway station by a man who said that it had led to his family addressing his own issues. “This fella said to me, ‘are you the one who spoke out about your dad and drink and alcohol? My 14-year-old son saw a video of it on Facebook and he showed it to me. And because of you speaking out and my son showing me that video, it allowed me to have a conversation with my son about my own drink problems’.” He added: “So even if it’s that one family, it was worth it.”

Mr Ashworth, who was first elected as the Labour MP for Leicester South in a by-election in 2011, said he’d helped thousands of constituents with problems with housing, the NHS, schools and the cost of living.

But he added: “I’ve helped them by lobbying, hassling, demanding agencies, the council and government departments to do something. But in the end, it’s not enough. In the end, you need a Labour government. And I’m determined to get a Labour government in place so I can really transform the lives of people.”