Michael Dugher has taken aim at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after he was sacked as shadow culture secretary earlier in January for "incompetence and disloyalty", according to newspaper reports. The outspoken Barnsley MP has hit out at the party's leadership, calling Corbyn's advisers "painfully out of their depth" and "a bunch of far-left anti-war former communists".
The 42-year-old, who led the campaign of Corbyn leadership rival Andy Burnham to a distant second in September 2015, was removed in the shadow cabinet reshuffle after being accused of spending too much time publicly attacking his own party. On the day of his sacking, he changed his Twitter bio to read "sacked by Jeremy Corbyn for too much straight talking, honest politics".
In an interview with The Times, he reserved particular criticism for former London mayor Ken Livingstone, said to be one of Corbyn's closest advisers. Dugher accused him of being soft on the 7/7 attackers by suggesting the war in Iraq was a catalyst for their actions.
He said: "I was really, really angry about what he had said. The idea that you can justify what the bombers did or somehow say they were martyrs to a cause or say that somehow the responsibility for what they did belonged elsewhere is absolutely totally wrong."
Dugher, an adviser to Gordon Brown during the 2010 general election, believes Corbyn is not facing up to the way Labour lost the 2015 election. He said: "My big criticism of Labour at the moment is that if a big company had had the set of results we'd had in quarter two of 2015, there wouldn't just be a change of chairman of the board, there'd be a lot of work done to understand why so few people wanted to buy what we were selling. It strikes me that's just not happened."
He disagrees with the Labour leader on austerity, claiming "we are not the welfare party, we are the Labour Party, the party of work", and says immigration is "the number one issue in many parts of the country".
Ultimately, however, he says he does not want to openly call for Corbyn's removal. He added: "It's not up to me who the leader of Labour is. Jeremy won convincingly, he is the leader of the Labour Party and he does have a big mandate, which is why it's right he's been able to set out his stall over the last four months and he should be allowed to do that over the next four or five months."