Corbyn influence on Labour policy ‘well and truly over’, says Starmer

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Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour party policy “are well and truly over”, Keir Starmer has said, as a war of words erupted with his predecessor on the second day of the general election campaign.

Corbyn was expelled from the Labour party on Friday after announcing he would stand as an independent candidate in the 4 July vote.

The former party leader, who was blocked from standing again for Labour, said he would seek election in the Islington North constituency he has represented for 40 years.

He criticised Labour’s decision to stop local members from taking part in shortlisting candidates, urging members to “stand up and defend our rights”.

At a local party meeting last month, 98% of attenders backed a motion thanking Corbyn for his “commitment and service to the people”, adding it was members’ “democratic right to select our MP”.

Starmer, when asked during a campaign visit to Lancashire on Friday evening about his predecessor’s criticism, said: “I think Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour party policy are well and truly over.”

He added: “What I’ve done is put a cohort of excellent candidates across the whole country including in Islington North, because the choice in the election … is between more of the chaos and division we’ve seen over the last 14 years, which has got us absolutely nowhere, and turning a page and a fresh start and rebuilding with Labour.

“That’s the choice in Islington North. That’s why I’m intent on selecting the best quality candidates everywhere, including in Islington North.”

Earlier on Friday, Labour announced that Praful Nargund, a local campaigner and Islington councillor, would be its candidate to run against Corbyn.

Nargund said: “It’s an honour to have been chosen as Labour’s candidate for Islington North and I look forward to the campaign ahead. I promise to be a truly local MP, that represents all families and businesses that call this special place their home.”

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Starmer spoke to journalists after touring a builder’s merchants in Leyland, Lancashire, where he took questions from workers on the NHS, immigration and defence spending.

Asked about the possibility of more defections from the Tory party, Starmer said: “I don’t think there’s many of them left – haven’t they all said they’re standing down?”

He added: “My focus is not on defections; it’s about getting out campaigning in this election.”

Pressed on the issue of tuition fees – a topic that has dogged the first days of Labour’s campaign after Starmer previously pledged to abolish them – the party leader said he still believed they were “unfair” and there was “an argument for abolishing”, but it was a choice between that and tackling the NHS crisis.

He added: “We’re not in the business of raising tuition fees but we do have to have a fairer approach.

“There are options we need to look at. The current arrangements are unfair; they are unfair on students; they are unfair on universities.

“There is an argument for abolishing tuition fees but after the damage Liz Truss did to the economy, we can’t afford to abolish tuition fees and do what we need to do for the NHS. Most people would say: when you can’t have both, the NHS takes priority.”


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