Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on why he's behind in opinion polls

Sir Keir Starmer has defended his leadership of Labour against the criticism he is the reason the party is straggling behind the government in a number of opinion polls.

The Labour leader, in an interview with ITV News, appeared to shift blame on to the previous leadership for the party's current standing, saying he has got "a lot of work to do" after the party lost the election "very badly in December 2019".

Sir Keir did not deny he was blaming Jeremy Corbyn, when asked by Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt. Instead he pointed to the progress he said he has made since taking over.

He said: "A year ago we were in the leadership race for leadership of the labour party and people were asking me is the Labour Party going to survive?

"Now people are asking me 'when are you going to form the next government?' - that shows progress and I'm pleased about that."

He added how he's "never pretended that this was a one year exercise, its a four year exercise", as he looked ahead to the next general election in 2024.

During the interview, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service was played a video showing people in the former Labour seat of Leigh commenting on his leadership so far.

None of the reviews were particularly good, with one person suggesting Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham would be a better leader and another saying he would be voting Tory again in the next election.

Sir Keir responded: "Andy Burnham will be happy about that, there's no doubt about that, but look, we lost really badly in 2019.

"There is no doubt that people who had voted Labour for many years were not voting Labour anymore and in Leigh we need to persuade them to vote Labour again."

He did not rule out reshuffling his shadow Cabinet this year, though he said he has a "really good team in place".

"I have a really talented shadow cabinet that are on this re-build work with me," he said.

"There's nothing they want more than to get out there and make the argument."

Asked whether his leadership had made any difference to the government's response during the coronavirus pandemic, Sir Keir claimed it had.

He gave a number of examples, including England's second Covid-19 lockdown, which he called for a number of weeks before Boris Johnson announced it, and the scrapping of Christmas mixing rules.

"In autumn when we saw the Sage [the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] advice, I went out with a press conference saying we need to go down into a lockdown and much quicker. "The prime minister poo-pooed that, said 'I'm not shutting down the economy, this is a ridiculous idea' - three weeks later he did it."

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