The councillor who was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn to defect from the Liberal Democrats to Labour last year is backing Owen Smith for the party’s leadership.

Jennifer Churchill, who represents Teddington ward, became Richmond’s first Labour councillor in more than 13 years last September, saying Mr Corbyn is a liberal ‘in the sense important’ to her.

When defecting from the Liberal Democrats, she also said Labour Party policies were more in line with her own, and she criticised Tim Farron’s leadership, saying he ‘doesn’t seem to stand for anything’.

In an article she wrote last year for the Huffington Post, Cllr Churchill, nicknamed ‘Red Jen’, said of Mr Corbyn: “He oozes authenticity and political courage; Labour members have responded to this, and I very much believe the wider public will do so if he is given more time and more support.”

However Cllr Churchill said she is now backing Owen Smith to win the leadership of the party because Mr Corbyn has failed to ‘reach the wider public’.

She also said Mr Smith is better-placed to offer clarity to voters of post-Brexit Britain than Mr Corbyn, who she said ‘hasn’t really got out of first gear’.

She was one of 76 members to vote for Mr Smith, against 70 for Mr Corbyn, meaning the Twickenham Labour Party became one of only 53 out of 338 local parties to back the challenger.

Cllr Churchill said: “I personally voted Smith.

“I was impressed last year with Corbyn galvanising such support during his leadership campaign. “I agreed strongly with the anti-austerity logic underpinning his economic vision, and felt that he had a long record of standing up on issues of human rights and civil liberties.

“I think both the Labour party and the economic situation have moved on since then; the biggest economic issue right now is Brexit.

“We need clarity on what to aim for and how to achieve those aims, and I feel Smith is stronger on this.

“Corbyn was given a great opportunity, but - without apportioning blame - he hasn't really got out of first gear and made the essential step towards reaching the wider public, in the manner, for example, of Sadiq Khan.”

Cllr Churchill said she was not surprised the Twickenham Labour Party had backed Mr Smith after it supported Yvette Cooper in last summer’s leadership election.