Sir Keir Starmer has revealed that he has held discussions with former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown about how to achieve his aim of becoming the country's next leader.
In an interview in The Times, the Labour leader also describes his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn's 2019 election manifesto as "history".
Mr Corbyn now sits as an independent MP in the House of Commons, having been kicked out of the parliamentary Labour Party over antisemitism.
"If you've been in the Labour Party all your life, and you're a Labour MP, of course you want a Labour government," he says.
"That is how party politics works. But we did lose our way and the electorate gave us their verdict."
He notes that Labour will go to the country at the next election with a "slim" and "focused" programme for government, with an emphasis on "stabilising and growing the economy".
'I've been talking to Blair and Brown'
In a wide-ranging discussion encompassing his childhood, the impact of his political career on his wife and children, and his legal career, Sir Keir also reveals he has a version of a prime ministerial red box for the papers he needs to read each night.
"I've been talking to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for some time now," he tells the newspaper.
"I'm conscious that we've been out of power for 12 years.
"That means I don't have people around the shadow cabinet table who've got huge experience in government. So I'm determined that we need to be ready to hit the ground running."
'Next Labour leader should be a woman'
Sir Keir also admits that the fact that Labour has never had a female leader is a problem - with the Conservatives having now had three - and says it should be a woman that succeeds him as head of the party.
"We do need a female leader of the Labour Party," he tells the newspaper.
"I've got really powerful women around me, if you look at Rachel Reeves, Yvette Cooper, Angela Rayner, Lisa Nandy, Bridget Phillipson."
Asked whether it should be a woman that takes over following his leadership, he replies: "Yes, ideally.
"We'll have to see what the circumstances are, but I don't think we should shy away from that challenge at all."
Ms Rayner is currently his deputy, and Sir Keir admitted they "come at things differently" but that this "works".
He tells the newspaper: "If I'm having a hard time, Ange will know - she'll be in touch with me, and she'll have my back, and I would do the same for her."
Sir Keir dismisses the view that Rishi Sunak's wealth is "an impediment" to him being a good leader.
"I don't think he really understands what it's like for the millions of people who are suffering at the moment, [but] I know plenty of rich people who do absolutely get it," he says.
"I think it's something deeper for him."
Moving on to his personal life, the Labour leader describes his wife Victoria as "a very sassy woman" who "doesn't want to be in the limelight" and "wants to get on with her life".
He also discusses how "difficult" the impact of being in the public eye is for his children, who are aged 14 and 11.
There will be no lavish designer makeover of the Downing Street flat if Labour win the next election under his leadership, Sir Keir adds.
Speaking of the luxury wallpaper ordered by the Johnsons, he says: "I don't think it's going to be to my taste."