Nine times Starmer backed Corbyn or mirrored his policies

Sir Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton in 2017
Sir Keir Starmer had previously said Jeremy Corbyn would make a good prime minister - AFP

Sir Keir Starmer has admitted that he only backed his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn at the last general election because he “thought he would lose”.

On Wednesday evening, the Labour leader was grilled by Sky’s Beth Rigby, alongside Rishi Sunak, with the pair also taking questions from the audience.

Sir Keir Starmer speaks in Harlow, Essex in 2019
Sir Keir said of the 2019 general election: 'I fought for the Labour Party – I honestly didn't think we had a chance of winning' - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe

Ms Rigby took the opportunity to remind viewers Sir Keir had previously said Mr Corbyn would make a good prime minister and she asked him if he genuinely believed that.

“I was certain that we would lose,” Sir Keir replied. “I fought for the Labour Party – I honestly didn’t think we had a chance of winning that election.”

Here are nine other times that he put his support behind the former Labour leader or closely mirrored his policies.

February 2019

Sir Keir told the BBC: “I do think Jeremy Corbyn would make a great prime minister.”

October 2019

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show in the lead up to the 2019 election, Sir Keir said: “I’m 100 per cent behind Jeremy Corbyn. I am working with Jeremy Corbyn to try to win the next general election. I think it is critical.”

When asked by Mr Marr whether Mr Corbyn was “a danger to the Jewish community”, Starmer replied: “I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that.”

December 2019

Sir Keir warned that Labour must not “oversteer” away from the Left-wing politics of Mr Corbyn in the wake of the party’s crushing general election defeat.

He said: “What Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Labour Party in 2015 was a change in emphasis that was really important – a radicalism that matters.

“We need to build on that rather than simply say: ‘Let’s now oversteer and go back to some bygone age.’”

Sir Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn in Harlow, Essex in 2019
In the lead up to the 2019 election, Sir Keir said: 'I'm 100 per cent behind Jeremy Corbyn' - Sean Smith/Guardian/eyevine

January 2020

Sir Keir described Mr Corbyn as “a friend” in an ITV interview.

Asked to rank Mr Corbyn’s leadership out of 10, the Labour leader said: “I’m not going to rank Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a colleague, he’s a friend, and he’s led us through some really difficult times in the Labour Party.

“I respect him and thank him for what he’s done.”

Upon his election as Labour leader in April 2020, Sir Keir re-emphaised his friendship with Mr Corbyn in his acceptance speech, stating: “I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energised our movement and who’s a friend as well as a colleague.”

Jan 18 2020

Speaking at the first Labour leadership hustings, Sir Keir implored party members to not “trash” Mr Corbyn’s record.

“Don’t trash the last four years,” he said. “Because what Jeremy Corbyn brought to this party – he made us an anti-austerity party that stood against cuts.”

2020 leadership campaign

A video clip from the Labour leadership election in 2020 showed Sir Keir describing Mr Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto as a “foundational document”.

He said: “We should treat the 2017 manifesto as our foundational document, the radicalism and the hope that that inspired across the country was real.

“Anybody who knocked on a door in that election knows it was real. So we have to hang on to that as we go forward”.

Sir Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn pictured in Brussels in 2017
Sir Keir has described Mr Corbyn's 2017 manifesto as a 'foundational document' - Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

2020 leadership campaign

When he was running for Labour leadership, Sir Keir pledged to “defend migrants’ rights”, which included promises to call for the closure of immigration detention centres, allow asylum seekers to work, liberalise family reunion rules and give some foreigners the vote.

He also wrote to the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, saying that he was “proud to have served as Jeremy [Corbyn’s] shadow immigration minister”, and boasting he had taken the last Labour government to court for cutting benefits for asylum seekers.

Critics have claimed his liberal approach to the migration crisis has echoed Mr Corbyn’s emphasis on the “value of migration to society” and refusal to put an “arbitrary” target on immigration numbers.

2020 leadership campaign

Sir Keir campaigned for the Party leadership on a ticket of introducing a wealth tax, which pledged to “increase income tax for the top 5 per cent of earners”.

He described this policy as nothing less than “economic justice”. According to the Office for National Statistics, the top 5 per cent now earn £87,012 per year.

The policy of a tax rise on the top 5 per cent of earners directly echoed one of Mr Corbyn’s promises in the lead up to the 2019 election.

February 2020

At his 2020 leadership campaign launch, Sir Keir said: “The idea that economic growth alone will solve society’s ills and make us all prosper is wrong and outdated.”

He argued that Labour should “rebuild our economic model in place of the failed free market one”.

Sir Keir’s comments had more than a whiff of Mr Corbyn’s scepticism of economic growth and calls for a “new economics”.

Speaking to activists in 2016, the former Labour leader said: “We all want greater prosperity. But let us have a serious debate about how wealth is created and how that wealth should be shared.”