Jeremy Corbyn’s wife has accused the media of having “vilified” the Labour leader and said he was “attacked by his own party” during his five years in the top job.
In a rare public intervention, Laura Alvarez also said the NHS would have been better prepared for the coronavirus pandemic if Labour had united to win power at the 2017 and 2019 elections while Mr Corbyn was at the helm.
Mr Corbyn is preparing to stand down on Saturday when his successor is revealed, having announced he was quitting after leading the party to its worst showing since the 1930s during the December election.
His wife of seven years has largely steered clear of making public comments since the 70-year-old was elected Labour leader in 2015.
But, in an article in the Mirror, the Mexican revealed it was difficult for her to watch from the sidelines as her husband faced criticism from both the press and the party.
“It has been incredibly hard for me to watch my husband vilified and to hear his words twisted by his political opponents and some in the media,” said the former human rights lawyer.
“It has been even harder to watch him be attacked by his own party.
“The brutal irony is that if we had pulled together, we would have been ready to lead the country rather than suffer more austerity under the Tories.”
Investment in the health service
Ms Alvarez said she was “proud” of her spouse and urged his successor “not to lose sight” of the left-wing policies promoted by the veteran MP.
She argued that the NHS would have been better prepared for the Covid-19 outbreak if Mr Corbyn had been prime minister.
The Government has faced criticism in recent days for the lack of personal protection equipment available to front line health staff, as well for failing to commission more testing to allow healthy self-isolating doctors and nurses to return to work.
“I read about the work that our amazing heroes in the NHS are doing during the coronavirus outbreak and only wish that the investment our health service needs had been offered long before now,” said Ms Alvarez.
Her comments come as Lisa Nandy, one of the three leadership candidates, said the contest had ended “in the hardest of circumstances” after the ballot closed at noon on Thursday.
The final weeks of the race were largely sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic, with all candidate events and hustings cancelled.
All three contenders have been asked to pre-record victory speeches in the event they win, with the victor having theirs released on Saturday morning when the result is revealed.
Change or die
Ms Nandy tweeted a video thanking her supporters for their efforts during the three-month contest.
“When this started, I said Labour must change or die,” said the Wigan MP.
“I had no idea how many of you felt the same.
“We took the moment of Labour’s worst defeat and turned it into the moment where things start to get better.”
She said supporter efforts to rebuild and reconnect with voters who had deserted the party at the last election showed the party could “win again”.
Front-runner Sir Keir Starmer also tweeted at the close of the ballot, thanking his rivals, Ms Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, for showing “positivity and unity” during the bout.
Those eligible to vote had until midday on Thursday to make their choice before the new leader is revealed on Saturday.
The ballot had opened on February 21, with voting papers sent out to party members, members of affiliated trade unions and groups and 14,700 “registered supporters” who paid £25 to take part on a one-off basis.
Because of the coronavirus emergency, the winners of both the leadership and the deputy leadership race, which has been running in parallel, will no longer be unveiled at a “special conference” as originally planned but via a virtual announcement.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has been seen as the favourite to take the post of deputy leader.
Ms Rayner is in a race against Dawn Butler, Ian Murray, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Richard Burgon.