Keir Starmer insists election can not just be about Brexit as he launches campaign
Shadow Brexit spokesman says Labour vote is only way to get new referendum on Europe
03 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Keir Starmer at his election campaign launch
SIR KEIR Starmer insisted the Christmas general election will not be decided on Brexit alone as he launched his campaign to get re-elected as the MP for Holborn and St Pancras yesterday (Saturday).
The former director of public prosecutions, who has quickly become one of Labour’s biggest hitters since his first win in the constituency in 2015, is set to spend much of the six week campaign helping out in more marginal parts of London.
But in the Camden Collective building back in Camden Town, he urged activists to band together in a bid to propel the party into power. He gave a short speech before members began a weekend of canvassing door-to-door.
Asked by the New Journal afterwards whether Labour’s domestic policies would go unheard in an election which Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called to help get his Brexit deal through the House of Commons, Mr Starmer said Theresa May had already learned that it was impossible to fight a campaign on just one issue.
“An election is called whichever everyone thinks is going to be about Brexit soon veers off in other directions,” he said. “So that’s why when Jeremy [Corbyn] did Prime Minister’s Questions on the NHS the other day, that was such a powerful position to take. And since then, of course, you’ve had Trump and the discussions going on between America and the NHS. Suddenly the NHS has become the centre stage even in the first three days.”
He added: “This will all sort of move around during the campaign but you can’t keep it up and let it be only about Brexit. That’s what Theresa May found out and what Boris Johnson is about to learn.”
Labour members in Camden are most wary of the Liberal Democrats, who had convincing wins across the borough at May’s European elections and are attacking Mr Corbyn’s party in remain-voting areas for not being clear enough about their opposition to leaving Europe.
The Lib Dems, who are fielding Matthew Kirk in Holborn and St Pancras, say they will stop Brexit altogether if they returned a majority in the House of Commons on December 12. Labour’s policy is to hold a second referendum, albeit after they have re-negotiated withdrawal terms.
Asked about the Lib Dem threat, he said: “I would remind people that we’re going into an election nigh-on 10 years after we started a savage austerity programme, and the Liberal Democrats were part of that. And for my part I am unconvinced that the 2016 referendum result wasn’t bound up with issues such as austerity.”
Mr Starmer added: “I think it’s very important that people campaign and vote for the party that offers them a real choice on things like Brexit, and what the Labour Party offers is the chance for that referendum. So if you want a referendum, if you want to remain and fight for remain, then you’ve got to vote Labour. It’s really important to put that messages out there, because if the remain vote splits and that puts in Boris Johnson, we know precisely what sort of right wing project we can get from him.”
He would not be moved on the idea that Labour might find themselves working with the Lib Dems after the election, insisting his party was “going out to win this.”
Mr Starmer has the cushion of being an MP in one of Labour’s safest seats, having expanded his majority at the 2017 general election to 30,509 – a result which was almost twice as high as the biggest majority ever achieved by his long-serving predecessor Frank Dobson. He urged activists to help out elsewhere in London, and said Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq would “expect some support”.
Kirsten de Keyser is standing for the Greens in Holborn and St Pancras, while the Conservatives have yet to announce a candidate. In Hampstead and Kilburn, the Lib Dem candidate is Matt Sanders, Johnny Luk is running for the Conservatives and the Greens have chosen David Stansell.