Starmer: I’ve taken action more serious than any Labour leader by expelling Corbyn

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Starmer: I’ve taken action more serious than any Labour leader by expelling Corbyn

Keir Starmer The Sun newspaper leaders debate: 'I never voted for Corbyn to lead our party'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Keir Starmer quizzed by Harry Cole
Keir Starmer quizzed by Harry Cole

Keir Starmer has launched his staunchest defence yet over his position on Jeremy Corbyn telling a Sun newspaper debate that by expelling the ex-leader he undertook action more “serious” than any other previous Labour leader has done before.

Interviewed by The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole, the Labour leader was asked once again about his decision to once describe Corbyn as a “friend.”

Starmer responded by saying he should be judged over his “leadership” on this issue, saying voters were being asked to back a “fundamentally different” Labour Party at this election.

He said:”Jeremy Corbyn not only lost his whip as a Labour MP, he’s now been expelled from Labour. No Labour leader has ever done anything as serious about changing his party before.

“And I’m really proud of this fact.”

Both Rishi Sunak and Starmer were quizzed by journalist Cole, and faced questions from an audience at The Sun’s headquarters in London during the latest leaders debate on Monday.

Reflecting on his time in the Corbyn shadow cabinet, Starmer said:”I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of our party in 2015, I didn’t vote for him in 2016. I supported other candidates but our membership returned him as leader.

“That was difficult for me, and difficult for our party as I thought we were not going in the right direction. ”

Starmer said he took the decision to remain in the shadow cabinet, while others including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves didn’t serve.

Leaders are temporary, but political parties are permanent,” said Starmer.”I thouht it was important to have a voice in the shadow cabinet. It meant I could challenge on antisemitism, I accept other colleagues did other things.”

Reflecting on his decision to stay Starmer said he made the right decision to fight from within.

Starmer also said he was happy to meet JK Rowling to discuss her criticisms of his stance on trans rights.

The Labour leader said: “I respect [Rowling] … I’m not as tribal as anybody else. My view is, if there’s an issue or a challenge, get people around the table and talk through the issues and find a way.”

He defended Labour’s policy on gender issues, saying that “women’s issues must be protected”, and adding: “When I was chief prosecutor, I was working with very many people who have been victims of sexual violence and domestic violence … I saw for myself how important those women’s spaces are, and they must be whether it’s a single sex ward or sport, that must be protected.”

He added:”We mustn’t go down the route of self identification, but we do need to recognise the process at the moment is not dignified.”

Starmer also insisted he has “nothing against private schools” as he defended Labour’s policy to introduce VAT on private school fees.

The Labour leader: “I accept that many families, parents work hard and save hard to send their children to private school because they’ve got aspirations for their children, and they think that’s the best place for their child.

“I’ve got nothing against that, against private schools. And I completely understand that for some parents, that’s quite hard to do because there’s not all money going around.

“But we’ve got to recruit the numbers of teachers we need in our state secondary schools … it is a tough choice, it’s a difficult choice.”

Starmer also praised Boris Johnson over his position on Ukraine.

He said: “I’m going to do something unusual and praise Boris Johnson. I thought the way he conducted himself and Partygate was a disgrace, and he should have got kicked out of parliament. But to be fair, on Ukraine, he took the strong position.”

Earlier PM Rishi Sunak had said Conservative MPs and party officials involved in the Tory betting scandal will be held “to account.”

The prime minister said: “If anyone has not upheld the standards that I expect, if they have broken the rules, they should face the full consequences of the law and they will be booted out of the Conservative party. I couldn’t be clearer about that.”

The Tories can give people the “certainty” of decreasing legal migration year after year, Sunak said.

The PM said the “numbers were too high” when he entered office 18 months ago.

Sunak added: “I want to go further with a legal cap and give you the guarantee that it will keep coming down again … I’m going to give all of you the certainty that it’s going to keep coming down year after year.”

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