Starmer likens Tory manifesto to Corbyn to distance himself from predecessor - but is it risky?

Credit: PA

When Sir Keir Starmer was responding to the Conservative manifesto today, I expected him to talk about the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose mini-budget and subsequent downfall seriously damaged the Conservatives reputation for economic competence.

But instead, he reached into the past of his own party, pointing the finger at the leader he succeeded.

"They're building a Jeremy Corbyn manifesto where anything you want can go in it but none of it is costed," he said this morning, at school in Middlesbrough to announce a new Labour health policy.

On this election campaign and during much of his time as leader, Starmer has tried to distance himself from his predecessor, talking about how he changed the Labour Party, even admitting to being "ruthless" in that endeavour.

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Presumably, he felt this morning's statement - tying Rishi Sunak to Corbyn - took that argument a step further.

But it also acted as a reminder of his decision to not only serve in Corbyn's front bench team, but to say in his leadership campaign that the 2017 manifesto should be Labour's "foundational document", and the party should draw on the hope it inspired.

This morning, Starmer was accompanied by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, whose politics on the right of Labour meant he never wanted to serve Corbyn.

He nodded when I put to him that he disagreed with that 2017 manifesto, saying that if things look too good to be true, they probably are.

So I asked Streeting: Did he find it strange that Starmer served Corbyn?

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"Look, during the difficult years of the Corbyn leadership, I was really glad that there were some sensible level-headed people like Keir Starmer in there trying to pull the Labour Party in the right direction."

So do you think Starmer wasn't telling the truth to the public when he was campaigning for Corbyn, I added.

"I think that during those difficult years we all did what we thought was right to try and get the Labour Party back to the mainstream where it belongs," Mr Streeting added.

"Keir Starmer had a seat at the top table and tried to influence."

Mr Streeting was there to talk about a Labour promise to ban the sales of energy drinks to the under 16s. Major supermarkets have already done that, but not smaller outlets.

"That level of caffeine intake in one can of Monster Energy drink, for example, is equivalent of five cans of Coca-Cola," he said.

"It's impacting on their sleep, it's impacting on their concentration, on their learning, on their mental health and their wellbeing."

The Labour Party will also bring in supervised teeth brushing at school - but shouldn't parents being doing that, I asked.

Mr Streeting acknowledged that parents should be doing that, but warned tooth decay is the "number one reason for hospital admission amongst children aged between six and 10".

He said: "We know that children are losing days of learning through having their teeth extracted."

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting. Credit: PA

That seemed to be an admission that some parents are not doing a good enough job? Were parents letting kids down?

Mr Streeting admitted some were and suggested he was happy with the nanny state label when it came to kids.

He said: "And ultimately the choice we've got is do we walk by on the other side and say 'well, nevermind the kids with their teeth, rotten teeth falling out, it's their parents' fault'. Or do we take in step in and take action?

"I'm afraid some parents are not making sure their children's teeth are brushed. And we're seeing the consequences of that.

"When it comes to children's health, we are going to take an active approach to improving the physical and mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. I think parents welcome that actually."

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