Addressing the Labour frontbencher, the Health Secretary made a witty reference to Mr Ashworth’s leaked phone call ahead of the December general election, in which he told a Tory “friend” he did not believe Jeremy Corbyn could ever win at the polls. To the amusement of the Commons, Mr Hancock said: “I hope we can have an approach to the Health Services which has consensus.
“And the truth is I like the Honourable Gentleman, the shadow secretary of state, his politics are quite close to mine.
“I don’t agree with his approach on PFI, but the truth is the scrutiny is for both of us recently.
“Both of us got the election result that we wanted.
“I didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and we discovered from his friends that neither did he!”
Ahead of the December general election, a leaked phone call between Jon Ashworth and a Conservative member revealed he believed Jeremy Corbyn was a risk to Britain’s national security.
He claimed the Civil Service would “pretty quickly move to safeguard security” if the hard-Left Labour leader became prime minister.
But he added there was little chance of Mr Corbyn entering Downing Street because of Labour’s “dire” electoral prospects.
Voters “can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit,” the shadow health secretary said.
He said: “I don’t know, on the security stuff; I worked in Number 10, I think the machine will pretty quickly move to safeguard security, I mean the Civil Service machine. But it’s not going to happen! I can’t see it happening!”
Labour was likely instead to suffer devastating losses in the party’s north of England heartland constituencies, Mr Ashworth rightly predicted.
“I’ve been going around these national places, it’s dire for Labour, it’s dire. It’s awful for them, and it’s the combination of Corbyn and Brexit. Outside of the city seats, it’s abysmal out there. They can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit.”
When Mr Baker joked that he was trying to “work out what to put in the suitcase” to flee the country in case Mr Corbyn came to power, Mr Ashworth sought to dispel his fears.
“I just can’t see it happening. It wouldn’t surprise me, for sake of argument, [if] we held Canterbury because of sort of middle-class…but then the Tories take Bolsover off of Labour.
“In Mansfield, in Ashfield, it’s dire for the Labour Party up there, these traditional working areas.”
Mr Ashworth later dismissed the leaked recording as “banter”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show, Ashworth said he was “saddened” that the conversation made it into the public domain.