Keir Starmer Criticised For Saying Calls To Defund Police Are 'Nonsense'

Chris York

Keir Starmer has been criticised for describing one of the main political aims of Black Lives Matter as “nonsense”.

The Labour leader was asked about the defunding the police, the process whereby funds are diverted from law enforcement into other areas such as social care and rehabilitation.

It is a central demand from Black Lives Matter campaigners, many of whom point to the high number of police killings of Black people and disproportionate uses of violence and stop and search – and now feel defunding is a “tangible goal” rather than a radical idea. The current wave of international action was sparked by the brutal killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. 

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Keir Starmer Is Wrong. Defunding The Police is The Only Option

But Starmer said: “Nobody should be saying anything about defunding the police.

“I was director of public prosecutions for five years. I’ve worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court, so my support for the police is very strong.

“It’s a shame it’s getting tangled up with these organisational issues, with the organisation Black Lives Matter, but I wouldn’t have any truck with what the organisation is saying about defunding the police – that’s just nonsense.”

Starmer also appeared to play down the significance of Black Lives Matter, describing it as a “moment”.

He said: “There’s a broader issue here. The Black Lives Matter movement – or moment, if you like – internationally is about reflecting something completely different. It’s reflecting on what happened dreadfully in America just a few weeks ago and showing or acknowledging that as a moment across the world.”

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Jermain Jackman, who stood for the party’s NEC in February and has campaigned for the party since 2017, were among those who appeared to criticise the leader’s choice of words.

The Twitter account of Black Lives Matter UK responded by branding Starmer, who used to head the Crown Prosecution Service, a “cop in an expensive suit”.

Among those to back Starmer, however, was Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, whose support he may not actually want.

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The Labour leader also said in the interview he was “sweating blood” to rebuild public trust in his party, despite a recent poll suggesting that public opinion favoured his leadership over that of the current prime minister.

Asked if he thought he would make a better prime minister than Boris Johnson on Sky News, he said: “I focus on the fact that last December the Labour Party lost very badly in a general election, and that’s our starting point.

“I’ve got a mountain to climb to get our party from where it is to where it needs to be to win the next general election, and I’m sweating blood on that.

“I’m not going to be deflected from the enormity of the task that I face. I’ve got to rebuild trust in the Labour Party, trust in a force for good and a force for change.

“I’m determined to do that, but I’ve got a long, long way to go.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.