Starmer defends Labour’s green U-turn, but says party needs to ‘fight like we’re five points behind’

Kingswood by-election Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Sir Keir Starmer has played down Labour’s heavy opinion poll lead against the Tories, saying the party has to “fight like we’re five points behind”.

Labour holds an opinion poll lead of about 20 points over the Conservatives ahead of an election this year.

However, in an interview with Vogue published on Friday, Sir Keir said the party is not taking anything for granted.

He told the publication: “We have to fight like we’re five points behind, I say this to the shadow cabinet every week.

“We’ve changed our party from a party of division, a party with the stain of anti-Semitism running through it, to a party that is in a position to serve the country.

“Now we want the opportunity to change the country for the better in the same way that we changed our party for the better.”

Sir Keir also had a message for those concerned about his capacity to make the “tough decisions” should his party come into power, pointing out his history working as a barrister for death row prisoners across Africa and the Caribbean.

“People often say in politics, ‘Are you tough enough to make the tough decisions?’,” he said.

“My answer to that is: ‘Look, if you’ve sat in a cell with someone and had to make the decision about their case which could result in them living or dying, then you’ve had to take some tough decisions.’”

His comments come in the wake of criticism over Labour’s decision to ditch its election pledge to spend £28 billion a year on green projects.

Sir Keir announced on Thursday the figure would be drastically scaled back to £23.7 billion over the course of the next parliament if his party wins the next election.

Environmental groups, trade union allies and energy industry figures have all expressed disappointment at the move – while the Tories have continued to attack Labour’s fiscal credibility.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters during a visit to the South West on Friday: “I think what Labour announced yesterday just demonstrates what we’ve been saying – they absolutely don’t have a plan.

“Their signature economic policy is in tatters, and when you don’t have a plan, you can’t deliver any change for the country.”

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