Sir Keir Starmer has claimed Labour can win a forthcoming by-election in Scotland, telling ITV News it’s his chance to test with the public how much his party has changed since he took over from Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader said he welcomes a by-election, which is likely to be confirmed after SNP Margaret Ferrier was recommended for a 30-day suspension from the Commons for breaking Covid rules during a lockdown.
Asked if Labour can win the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat, Sir Keir said “yes, I do, and I want the chance to go out there, as with everywhere else, and win every vote”.
He told ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton “you’ve seen the party implode”, an apparent reference to the recent leadership election, and claimed the SNP had been using calls for independence “to mask their failure in government”.
Keir Starmer said he wants the chance to “make a case for a changed Scotland within a changed United Kingdom”.
He was speaking during a visit to Swindon which came one day after blocking his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn from standing as a Labour MP.
Sir Keir said his former boss only has himself to blame for being removed from the parliamentary party in October 2020 over his reaction to a report about anti-semitism in the Labour Party.
But he also attacked his predecessor over the impact he had on the party’s electability.Explaining the move to block the veteran MP from representing Labour in Islington North, Sir Keir said the “core question that we were addressing was Labour's prospects at the next general election.
The Labour leader said 'there's only one person responsible for Jeremy Corbyn not standing as a candidate - Jeremy Corbyn.'
“And that is bound up with the question of our result in 2019 and bound up with that is the question of antisemitism.”
He added: “There's only one person responsible for the fact that Jeremy Corbyn isn't going to stand as a Labour candidate of the next election, and that's Jeremy Corbyn.
“I was very clear in 2020 when I took over just under three years ago, that we would change our party and root out antisemitism.”
Sir Keir was also asked about his announcement that Labour would freeze council tax if it was in government now, which he said would be paid for with an increased windfall tax.
However he would not commit to increasing spending for councils if he becomes prime minister next year, despite saying they’re “struggling and they're struggling because the government is not giving them money that they need”.
Asked if he’d improve council funding, he said: “What I'm saying is that we would set out longer term settlements. I'm not gonna get drawn into what's gonna be the state of the economy, what will we do, um, next year.”
Conservative chairman Greg Hands hit out at Labour, saying its council tax announcement was not “worth the paper it’s written on”.
He said: “They have no plan to introduce this if elected. They’re taking the British people for fools.
“If Labour were serious about cutting council tax Labour councils would be doing it now.
“Instead across the country it’s Labour-run councils with higher council tax, Labour-run Wales where bills have quadrupled and Labour-run London where council tax has gone up 9.7%.”
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