A Shadow Cabinet minister has dismissed as "banter" leaked comments in which he criticised Jeremy Corbyn, saying voters could not stand him, and said a Labour majority on Thursday was not going to happen.

Jonathan Ashworth conceded that the leak made him "look like a right plonker" but said he made the remarks while "joking around" with a Tory friend Greig Baker.

In the explosive recording published by the Guido Fawkes website, the Shadow Health Secretary said he thought the civil service machine would "pretty quickly move to safeguard security" if Mr Corbyn entered No 10.

And he said party MPs "f***ed it up" in 2016 in their attempt to remove the Labour leader, saying they "went too early".

Mr Ashworth also said the situation facing Labour was "abysmal" because voters "can't stand Corbyn" and think the party has "blocked Brexit".

Appearing on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show minutes after the recording was published, he insisted he did not mean what he said, telling the show: "We're having banter with each other; we're joking around.”

He went on: "No, I don't mean it because I'm joking around with my mate because he's a Tory...If you leak it to Guido Fawkes, of course, it makes me look like a right plonker but it's not what I mean when I'm winding up a friend; I'm trying to sort of pull his leg a bit."

But Tory HQ seized on Mr Ashworth’s remarks, wanting to move the focus of the election campaign on from the row over Mr Johnson’s response to a four-year-old boy left sleeping on a hospital floor in Leeds because there was no bed available.

James Cleverly, the Conservative Chairman, said they were an "honest and truly devastating assessment" of Mr Corbyn's leadership "by one of his most trusted election lieutenants".

He added: “If even Corbyn's closest political allies think he is unfit to be Prime Minister, why on earth should voters be expected to put their trust in him and them?”

The BBC later said that Mr Ashworth had pulled out of a BBC Radio 5 Live interview without a reason.