Starmer skewered by Ferrari as he repeatedly denies Corbyn was friend

LBC: Keir Starmer denies Jeremy Corbyn is a friend

Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly denied that he ever considered Jeremy Corbyn as a “friend”. The Labour leader, who has sought to distance himself from his predecessor, was grilled during a phone-in on LBC with Nick Ferrari over his personal relationship with the Islington North MP.

Sir Keir insisted Mr Corbyn, who currently sits as an independent MP following a row over antisemitism, has never been a “friend” despite the presenter pointing out he used the term to describe him in 2020.

Mr Ferrari asked: “Is he a friend? Was he a friend?”

Sir Keir replied: “No, I haven’t spoken to him for two and a half years.”

The LBC host said: “In 2020 he was a friend Sir Keir…”

Sir Keir said: “Well I worked with him, let’s just run through it. I didn’t vote for him in 2015 when he stood as leader, I wanted him to stand down in 2016, he won again, I didn’t vote for him.

“But I did take the view that we needed an effective opposition and that I shouldn’t just walk off the stage.”

Mr Ferrari highlighted that in 2020 Sir Keir said of Mr Corbyn: “He’s a colleague, he’s a friend and he’s led us through some really difficult times in the Labour Party.”

The LBC presenter added: “Now he’s not a friend?”

Sir Keir said: “Because Nick very straightforwardly, tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of me being leader and the very first thing I said when I became leader is I would root out antisemitism by its roots.

“I apologised for what had happened and I asked for those that had been most hurt by what had happened in relation to antisemitism simply to give me the space to show what I could do.

“I didn’t think I could ask them for their support, I said give me the space to show that I mean what I say.

“I meant what I said, that’s why Jereym Corbyn lost the whip when he responded as he did to the terrible report on antisemitism and why he now won’t stand as a Labour candidate.”

Mr Ferrari asked a final time: “But he was never a friend?”

Sir Keir said: “Not in the sense that we went to visit each other or anything like that. I worked with him as a colleague but as I say haven’t spoken to Jeremy now for two and a half years.”

It comes after Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last week backed a proposal from Sir Keir not to endorse Mr Corbyn in contesting Islington North for the party at the next general election.

The former Labour leader has blasted the move as a “shameful attack on party democracy”, with the decision threatening to re-ignite a row with MPs on the left of the party.

Mr Corbyn has also hinted he will stand as an independent, saying: “I will not be intimidated into silence. I have spent my life fighting for a fairer society on behalf of the people of Islington North, and I have no intention of stopping now.”

If he did run as an independent in the seat he has represented since 1983, he could create a distracting challenge for Sir Keir at the next election.

The veteran left-winger remains a Labour member but sits as an independent in the Commons after losing the whip in 2020 over his response to the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in the party.

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