Wes Streeting said Labour's "watchword" at the next election would be "reassurance". (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images)
Labour’s Wes Streeting has said he is “sick and tired” of being asked whether he wants to succeed Keir Starmer as the party’s next leader.
The shadow health secretary, a rising star within Labour, has long been tipped as a potential future leader.
But dismissing the speculation, Streeting said he would be “too old” to take on the job by the time Starmer had finished being prime minister if Labour wins the next election.
Speaking to reporters at a lunch in Westminster, Streeting said: “I really thought that when we got to a point where we were 30 points ahead in the polls these questions would just stop.
“I’m sick and tired of them. I’ll be far too old by the time Keir is finishing being prime minister. They’ll be looking to new fresh faces and a new generation.
“I already have a leadership role with the Labour Party — I have a big job to do, a serious job to do.
“And if I look back on my career in politics, as the secretary of state of health and social care, who gripped the worst crisis in the history of the NHS, and put it on a footing that makes it fit for the future so people look back on that in the way people that back on Bevan, I will have more than achieved my ambitions in politics and be very happy with the career I’ve had.”
Streeting was speaking as Labour continues to enjoy a near 30-point lead in the polls following the chaos sparked by the mini budget and Liz Truss’s downfall as prime minister.
However, the election of Rishi Sunak as party leader has given the Conservatives a small bounce in the polls, with support for the Tories up for points to 23%, while Labour has dropped five points to 51%.
There are some fears within Labour that Sunak’s serious approach to fixing the economy could persuade voters to stick with the party.
But the shadow health secretary said Sunak was “one of many Conservative chancellors that have saddled our country with more than a decade of failed economic policies”.
He painted a stark contrast between the Tories and Labour, saying that while his party had “changed substantially at every level”, the Tories had made some “very questionable choices in leadership elections”.
“In the Labour Party, the cranks have been kicked out or have left. In the Conservative Party, the cranks are sat around the Cabinet table,” he said.
And in a swipe at Sunak’s controversial decision to reappoint Suella Braverman as home secretary just days after she was sacked by Truss for a serious security breach, Streeting said: “He [Starmer] seeks unity, but unlike Rishi Sunak he prizes unity with and for the interests of the country, above appeasing factions within his own party.”
Streeting welcomed the fact that Sunak is the UK’s first Asian prime minister, calling it a “cause for celebration”, but said Labour was “ready to take him on”.
Sunak cannot tackle the cost of living crisis “because he has fuelled the cost of living crisis,” Streeting went on.
“I don’t care that Rishi Sunak was privately educated, or that he’s hugely wealthy.
“I do care that he’s dangerously out of touch, making decisions about people whose lives he has never lived and whose lives he will never understand — decisions that are making them poorer, not richer.
“Ideological dogma may have crashed the economy with the mini budget, but more than a decade of failed Conservative economic policies have left working people paying the price.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.