Keir Starmer 'not concerned' with being labelled a Blairite or a Corbynista in Labour leadership race

Asked if he is 'on the left or the right', leadership favourite insists: 'What I want is what matters. Where other people badge that doesn’t particularly concern me'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 16 February 2020 11:20
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Keir Starmer: 'I don't need someone else's name tattooed on my head'

Keir Starmer says he does not care whether people “badge” him as a Blairite or a Corbynista in the Labour leadership contest – describing both as “historical figures”.

The race favourite was told that the public was “unclear” whether he is “a centrist or a left winger”, but insisted what matters is his ability to bring all parts of the party together.

“I’m often challenged, are you a Blairite, a Corbynista?” Sir Keir acknowledged, reflecting suspicions on both wings of the party about the direction he would pursue.

But he added: “I don’t need someone else’s name tattooed on my head to make a decision or hug a historical figure.

Pressed again if he was “on the left or the right of the party”, the shadow Brexit secretary added: “What I want is what matters. Now, where other people badge that doesn’t particularly concern me.”

And he said: “I can think for myself, I don’t need to hug Jeremy Corbyn, I don’t need to hug Tony Blair or anybody else to make a decision.”

Speaking to Sky News Ridge on Sunday programme, Sir Keir also:

* Criticised Mr Corbyn’s refusal to say Labour would definitely back Remain in a second Brexit referendum, arguing he warned the party would “look indecisive” in the election campaign.

* Refused to say if he would ever back a second Scottish independence referendum, saying only the position should be decided “in agreement with Scottish Labour”.

* Attacked the “vilification” of Labour’s leader by sections of the media, adding – without explaining what he meant – “We do need to address this.”

* Declined to say if Mr Corbyn would have a place in his shadow cabinet, saying: “I am not going to be presumptuous.”

Defending his push for a second Brexit referendum, Sir Keir said: “I thought it was the right policy.

“I thought we should have gone on by the way and said which side we would be campaigning on if there was a referendum and I warned our party that if we looked indecisive, we wouldn’t look like we were leading on this issue.

“We didn’t knock down that phrase ‘Get Brexit Done’. We had a manifesto with lots and lots of policies in it, Boris Johnson had three words and we didn’t knock it down.”

On tax, he backed the outgoing Labour leader’s team of the top 5 per cent of earners paying more overall, but declined to say where a 50p income tax rate would kick in.

Asked if “the top 5 per cent should pay the 50p rate,” he replied: “No, no, not from the start.”

Later, asked about the media at leadership hustings, Sir Keir said: “The press more widely have to take responsibility. Not just for the hatred and abuse but for the vilification constantly of Labour MPs and Labour leaders.

“We have got to do something to diversify our press, to have a better media.”

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