Sir Keir Starmer has said he is listening to Tony Blair’s advice that Labour needs “total deconstruction and reconstruction” to revive as a political force, as he admitted the party’s “titanic” job of winning power.
In an interview with Piers Morgan, the Labour leader also responded to personal questions about his late mother’s illness, his marriage, and his desire to tour the country this summer to hear from voters that had rejected the party at recent elections.
It comes after the latest spate of in-fighting among Labour MPs and officials over the disastrous local election results in England last month and with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives continuing to enjoy a healthy first position in the polls.
Reflecting on the recent loss of the Hartlepool by-election – a seat held by Labour since the 1970s – Sir Keir told Piers Morgan’s Life Stories programme that he wasn’t “going to pretend the last few weeks have been easy”.
“We lost badly,” the Labour leader said. “And when you want to win, it hurts to lose and there’s emotion there.”
In the wake of the party’s poor electoral performance last month, former leader Mr Blair also criticised Sir Keir for lacking a compelling economic message and suggested he was “struggling to break through with the public”.
In an article for the New Statesman, the former prime minister who led the party to three general election victories, wrote: “The Labour Party won’t revive simply by a change of leader. It needs total deconstruction and reconstruction. Nothing less will do”.
Pressed on whether that was advice he needed to listen to, Sir Keir replied: “Yes. The biggest change we’ve got to make is a Labour Party that stops looking in on itself and looks out to the electorate and the voters.
“I’m going to go and talk across the country this summer to people who are no longer voting Labour and hear for myself what they have to do and show that reconnection”.
Quizzed by Mr Morgan on fortunes of his party and whether he had to “turn the Titanic around before it sinks”, he added: “We’ve got a huge job – titanic or otherwise – but we are getting on with some of that. We need to make the persuasive argument about why Britain would be better under Labour, we need to be patriotic and proud about it.”
And questioned on whether he was at a “pivotal moment” in his career, Sir Keir replied: “Yes – for me, for my party, this chance at the next election isn’t going to come again – we’ve lost four in a row. This is not about me, it’s about what is right for the country.”
During the interview, which also explored Sir Keir’s upbringing, questions over recreational drug use at university, and his marriage to Victoria, the Labour leader appeared tearful as he detailed a long illness of Still’s disease suffered by his mother and the moment he was told she was “not going to make it” – weeks before he was first elected to the Commons in 2015.
“It was really tragic,” he said. “She’d have loved to seen that. You have to understand she was so ill by then. That was the stage of her life when she’d had her leg amputated, she couldn’t move really, she couldn’t use her hands, she had to be fed, she couldn’t speak… she was in a terrible way by then.
“One of my biggest regrets is that our kids never knew her because by the time they were born she was incapable of moving, speaking, or being who she was. And she was broken by then.”
Speaking about his father, who was a toolmaker, Sir Keir insisted: “He spent his life thinking that people looked down on him because he worked on the shop floor, and he was right about that. People did and they still do.
“We don’t value people with skills on the shop floor. One of the burning things I take away from my dad is that sense of injustice that we don’t value that in the way we should.”
‘Piers Morgan’s Life Stories with Sir Keir Starmer’ airs tonight at 9.30pm on ITV and is also available on ITV Hub
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