IAN Blackford has claimed he would have won the race to lead the SNP group at Westminster if he had put himself forward.

The SNP MP announced he would be stepping down as group leader ahead of the party’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). He likely would have faced a leadership challenge at that meeting, with The National being told he jumped before he was pushed.

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Instead the choice was between Stephen Flynn and Alison Thewliss, with Flynn winning in a vote of MPs.

However, speaking to Jeremy Kyle on TalkTV on Wednesday evening, Blackford claimed: “I could have seen this off, I believe I would have won if I’d put myself forward.”

Instead though, the SNP MP said he had asked the First Minister to give him a job convincing business of the merits of Scottish independence, something she has done.

Blackford told Jeremy Kyle’s show: “Look, politics is a dirty business, isn’t it? We all know that. You’re never going to please all the people, all of the time.

“Some people have a different way of wanting to do things and I think it’s fair to say that some people probably wanted to see the end of my backside off the frontbench. That’s fine. They’re entitled to that.

“I discussed things with the First Minister and I said, ‘look, give me a job because we need to convince people in the business community that we have a plan for an independent Scotland’. I’m really relishing doing that.

“I’ve started, by the way, I’ve had two meetings today, actually. Being unleashed, I can do the things that maybe I’ve not always been able to do.”

He added: “At the end of the day I’ve moved on. There’s an opportunity there and Stephen’s taken that. He has all my best wishes.”

The start of Flynn’s tenure as SNP group leader has been rocky, with two senior MPs publicly resigning from his frontbench.

On Thursday morning, Pete Wishart quit as Defra spokesperson, followed in the afternoon by Stewart McDonald, who left his role on defence.