WATCH: Now is the time for a “clearer rule” on MPs’ second jobs, Starmer says

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has argued that now is the time to introduce a “clearer rule” on second jobs for MPs and told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme listeners that his and Boris Johnson’s “instincts are in completely different places” on the sleaze row.

“There is an argument for that wider experience, I do want to see people from all walks of life coming into parliament and everybody comes into parliament bringing that experience,” the Labour leader told listeners this morning.

“I came into politics later in life. It meant I had the experience of being a frontline lawyer but also running a public service as the director of public prosecutions, and I bring that experience with me – others bring different experience,” he said.

“But once we’re there, and having gone through what we’ve gone through in the last two and a half weeks, I can’t emphasise enough just what damage the PM has done to his party but also to our parliament in the way that he has behaved.”

Starmer has this week been asked about “discussions” he had over taking employment with Mishcon de Reya in 2017, while being the Shadow Brexit Secretary, and he was paid while an MP (before becoming leader of the party) by the law firm.

Asked why he has changed his mind on second jobs, he said: “If you look at standards over many years in parliament, there are points at which we move forward and change the rules and I think that this is one of those points.

“It’s not to judge anybody who’s acted in accordance with the rules in the past. It is to say, as we go forward, should we have a clearer rule? I think the answer to that is now yes.”

The Labour leader also discussed his predecessor. Asked whether Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson, Starmer said: “The public gave us their verdict on that argument pretty strongly in 2019. We lost.”

Pressed on the question, he refused to answer directly, saying: “A Labour government is always better than a Conservative government… We lost very badly in 2019 and my job as leader of the Labour Party has been to change our party, to turn it around, and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“I appreciate that the rule changes that we had at conference are a boring process but they don’t half show that we’ve changed the Labour Party.”

Starmer passed controversial party reforms at the Labour conference in Brighton in September, for example raising the threshold for MP nominations required for candidates in Labour leadership elections, as well as the EHRC rule changes.

He added that his job was to “draw a distinction between my instincts and the instincts of the Prime Minister”, telling listeners: “I think that, by and large, people in Britain believe that we should play by the rules, get on by playing by the rules and you don’t rip the rules up just to protect a mate. The instincts of the Prime Minister and my instincts are in completely different places on this.”

The Labour leader also accused the government of failing to “deliver” on pledges to reduce migrant Channel crossings, telling listeners that the deal ministers have made with the French government is not “strong enough”.

“The Home Secretary repeatedly says in strong language what she is going to do about the immediate problem and delivers absolutely nothing,” Starmer said.

“You have got to do the work upstream otherwise you will never solve this problem.”

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