Keir Starmer defended his decision to scrap some of the pledges he made during his leadership campaign, saying "a lot has changed".
Keir Starmer has indicated he will ditch his pledge to scrap tuition fees for university students in England.
The Labour leader did not rule out scrapping the key promise that he made during his campaign to replace Jeremy Corbyn at the party’s helm.
Starmer said the state of the economy meant there were “Labour things...we won’t be able to do” if the party won the next election.
The Labour leader made the admission in an interview with the BBC, in which he was asked about “junking promises” he made to Labour Party members three years ago.
Presenter Laura Kuenssberg asked: “When you as leader, you said you would end outsourcing in the NHS — that’s out.
“You said you would abolish the welfare payment Universal Credit — that’s out.
“One of our viewers wants to know: ‘If Keir Starmer has broken all of his pledges to the Labour Party, how can the country expect to trust a word he says?’”
Starmer replied: “When I was running for leader I made pledges that reflected my values.
“Since then, we’re now what three years on, a lot has changed.
“We’ve been through Covid, we are still going through an awful conflict in Ukraine, and the Tory government has done huge damage to our economy.”
Asked specifically about whether the promise to scrap tuition fees still stood, Starmer replied: “Well, look, I think the tuition fee system needs to be changed, I don’t think it’s working. I don’t think anybody would say it’s working.
“But looking at the damage that’s been done to the economy, Rachel Reeves and I have had to be very clear that we will only make commitments that we can afford the next general election.
“So we’ll need to look at that promise again.”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 15, 2023
One of the main criticisms levelled at Starmer by some in his party is that he has dropped some of the pledges he made during his campaign to be Labour leader.
As well as ending outsourcing in the NHS and abolishing Universal Credit, Starmer has also been accused of rowing back on plans to nationalise key industries such as rail, energy and water.
On whether voters could trust him, Starmer told Kuenssberg she was wrong to “assume that the public will say that they prefer someone who dogmatically insists that whatever was the position before could never change even when the circumstances have changed”.
“The damage done to our economy is huge,” he added.
“We are going to inherit a weakened, damaged economy.
“We have to be prepared for that and that is why I have called for a decade of national renewal.
“We will not be able to do everything we need to do in the first five years of a Labour government.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Starmer was also asked whether he believed the UK economy would always be “smaller” outside of the EU.
There are some figures in the Labour Party — including London mayor Sadiq Khan — who want a “debate” on whether the UK should rejoin the European single market.
Asked whether the UK would “always be poorer” outside the single market, Starmer said: “No, so long as we improve upon the deal we’ve got, I don’t accept that.
“What people desperately want going into the election is to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that things can get better.
“I would also add this. The economy has not grown significantly for 13 years – that has been an absolute failure of this government.
“So even before Brexit, we had a failure under this Tory government with our economy. I’m determined that we will fix that.”