Starmer says he's 'not dodging' General Election debates with Sunak after PM says Labour leader 'lacks courage'

24 May 2024, 07:52 | Updated: 24 May 2024, 09:20

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Nicm challenges Keir Starmer after Sunak said he 'lacked courage'

By Kit Heren

Sir Keir Starmer has said he's "not dodging" debates with Rishi Sunak ahead of the General Election, after the Prime Minister said the Labour leader "lacked courage".

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Sir Keir told LBC's Nick Ferrari at breakfast that "debates are a big part of election campaigns and there’ll be debates in these elections - you can bet on that."

He added: "Whether it’s one debate or 100 debates, the arguments are going to be exactly the same because we do them every Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions.

"He will stand there saying everything’s fine".

It comes after Rishi Sunak said he wanted to debate with Sir Keir - "but he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t have a plan and doesn’t have the courage to say what he wants to do."

Nick challenges Keir Starmer after Sunak said he 'lacked courage'

Sir Keir said that he preferred taking calls from Nick's listeners and debating with them.

It comes after Rishi Sunak used a Telegraph column to accuse Sir Keir of lacking the "courage" to take part in weekly televised debates during the campaign.

Labour indicated that rather than the six showdowns proposed by the Tories, Sir Keir would agree to the two broadcasters with the largest audience - the BBC and ITV.

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The Labour leader was speaking to Nick from Scotland, where he is setting up GB Energy, a publicly owned energy company that Sir Keir says will help bring down energy bills for British people.

"This is an enterprise that will be owned by the taxpayer, making money for the taxpayer...

"The long-term advantage of that is it will bring our energy bills down not just for a while, but for good," he added.

Sir Keir said that the company would require investment of £8.3 billion of public money, which should be matched by over £24 billion of private funds.

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He rejected suggestions that he was risking job losses by shutting down North Sea oil and gas, saying that his party would simply not renew contracts, some of which run for decades.

Sir Keir added that "the blunt reality is, we are going to run out of oil and gas - we need to make the transition. We need to make that transition and do the planning.

"Now, what I'm not going to allow to happen is what happened with coal, which is that we got to the end of the line on coal and there wasn't a plan for the future. And many people lost their jobs. That, to me, was a historic mistake."

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner during a visit to Gillingham Football club in Gillingham, Kent yesterday
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner during a visit to Gillingham Football club in Gillingham, Kent yesterday. Picture: Alamy

It comes after the Conservatives announced that they would keep green levies on energy below their current level for the next five years, saving households money.

Sir Keir said he hadn't seen the details on the announcement, but insisted that the "transition to green" has "got to be done fairly".

Meanwhile Ofgem announced that the energy price cap would fall by 7% from £1,690 to £1,568 from July 1, a drop of £122 for the average household.

Mr Sunak told Nick on Thursday that no flights to Rwanda would be taking off before the General Election - possibly meaning that no migrants will ever be taken to the east African country, as Labour plan to scrap the whole scheme.

Sir Keir said this showed that Mr Sunak was never confident in the plan, and was prepared to waste the hundreds of millions of pounds already spent on it.

He said: "If I was listening to this, I would be absolutely fuming - hundreds of millions of pounds to send nobody but one volunteer who got paid to go to Rwanda.

"And now the Prime Minister says he won't even test his flagship policy before the election. it deep down, he always knew this wasn't going to work".

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho said in response: “Sir Keir Starmer is too scared to debate the Prime Minister because he doesn’t have a plan and hasn’t got the courage to stand up and say what he believes in or to stand up for Britain.

“The only thing we can be sure of with Labour is that their sums won’t add up – Starmer’s green promise is part of Labour’s £38.5 billion spending blackhole that would take working families back to square one with £2,094 of higher taxes to fill the gap.

“Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives will take the practical approach with a clear plan and bold action to secure to Britain’s energy supply and keep bills low for families.”

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