Starmer refuses to rule out Covid coalition government

Sienna Rodgers

New leader Keir Starmer has refused to rule out the idea of Labour joining a Covid coalition government in an interview on ITV’s Peston on Wednesday.

It came as a recent YouGov poll showed that a majority of voters would support a national unity government being in place for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

Asked whether he would join a national unity government during the crisis, Keir Starmer refused to confirm either way and instead reiterated that he was offering “constructive” opposition.

“That’s worked quite well so far in the sense that where there have been mistakes the government has been able to rectify them,” the new Labour leader said.

A senior ally of Starmer told the FT last week that he would find it “hard to say no” if joining a national government was offered.

Starmer confirmed that the meeting between the government and opposition parties was no longer happening this week, though he had been in touch with Dominic Raab.

He reiterated his call for the government to set out an exit strategy from the coronavirus social distancing measures.

“I do think we should have ramped up the testing much, much more quickly, and I think that there are things to learn from Germany as a result of that,” Starmer said.

“But at the moment,” he added, “I don’t think the public want to hear the leader of the Labour Party in opposition simply quipping about what should have been done.”

Asked whether firms such as Tesco and easyJet should be paying out vast dividends while benefitting from rates relief, Starmer would not say either way.

Peston accused Starmer of “purging the Corbynistas” from the shadow cabinet. The leader replied: “No, I’ve put together a new team. It’s a team that comes from all bits of the party.

“It’s a very diverse team with representatives from across the United Kingdom. It’s an exciting, talented new team going forward.”

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