Sir Keir Starmer enters race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

4 January 2020, 19:00

Sir Keir Starmer has thrown his hat into the ring
Sir Keir Starmer has thrown his hat into the ring. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Vocal Remain supporter Sir Keir Starmer is set to launch his Labour leadership bid in tomorrow as the race heats up to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

The shadow Brexit secretary will visit Brexit-backing Stevenage, Hertfordshire, which voted 59 per cent for Leave on Sunday as he makes his pitch to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

He became the fifth MP to enter the race to lead Labour following its worst general election defeat since 1935 when he made the announcement to the Sunday Mirror.

Prominent backbenchers Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy declared on Friday, while shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis are also running.

Sir Keir said: "Over the coming weeks, I'm looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail and talking to people from across the country about how Labour can rebuild and win.

"Britain desperately needs a Labour government. We need a Labour government that will offer people hope of a better future.

"However, that is only going to happen if Labour listens to people about what needs to change and how we can restore trust in our party as a force for good."

A campaign film highlights his justice fights and features words of support from Stephen Lawrence's mother Baroness Lawrence, who says he was "instrumental" in getting justice for her murdered son.

Sir Keir's work with the National Union of Mineworkers and on the McLibel case against McDonald's is also highlighted.

His Remain stance has been partly blamed by some Corbyn allies for the disastrous election performance.

Appealing to Mr Corbyn's base, however, Sir Keir urged the party not to lurch to the right and said the case for a "bold and radical" Labour government is as important as ever.

The human rights lawyer, who was made Queen's Counsel in 2002, served as head of the CPS and accepted a knighthood in 2014, and has struggled to shake-off perceptions of privilege.

But he was named after Labour legend Keir Hardy and he has stressed his upbringing by his toolmaker father and nurse mother in London's Southwark when dismissing allegations he is too middle-class to speak to the party's historic heartlands.

His CV includes co-founding the renowned Doughty Street Chambers and advising the Policing Board to ensure the Police Service of Northern Ireland complied with human rights laws.

He entered Parliament as the MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015.

Critics have also raised concerns that Sir Keir is seen too much as a Londoner, but a recent survey made him the clear front-runner in the leadership race regardless.

He would beat the current leadership's favoured candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey 61% to 39% in a run-off, according to a YouGov survey of 1,059 Labour members conducted at the end of December.

But the outsiders will yet be hoping to boost their profiles, with the race not expected to formally get under way until Tuesday and the new leader installed by the end of March.

Wigan MP Ms Nandy began her campaign in her constituency on Saturday with a call for change from Mr Corbyn's approach.

"We need a different sort of leadership that helps to root us back in every community across the UK, turns us back into a real movement and real force, driven from the ground up so that we can win people's trust back," she said.

Birmingham Yardley MP Ms Phillips visited the Bury North constituency that fell from Labour to the Tories on December 12 to meet former supporters of the party.

Meanwhile, senior Labour MP David Lammy ruled himself out of the leadership contest, suggesting his anti-Brexit stance rendered him unsuitable to unite the party's "vociferous factions".