Corbyn would have made better PM than Johnson, says Starmer

Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer said as he faced a grilling from members of the public.

The Labour leader ducked a volley of questions from audience members at the BBC Question Time election special over whether he truly believed his predecessor would make a “great” prime minister.

The debate also featured Rishi Sunak, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, and the SNP’s John Swinney.

Sir Keir defended his support of predecessor Mr Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto, despite recently comparing it to Rishi Sunak’s policy offering.

General Election campaign 2024
Jeremy Corbyn, with supporter Rob Delaney, is standing as an independent in the General Election (Lucy North/PA)

Host Fiona Bruce repeatedly challenged him over his one-time statement Mr Corbyn would make a great prime minister.

“It wasn’t a question that really arose because I didn’t think we were going to win the election,” Sir Keir said.

When Bruce asked for a yes or no answer to whether he meant it, there was laughter from the audience when he did not give one, instead saying that Mr Corbyn would be a better premier than Boris Johnson.

The Labour leader has in recent weeks sought to distance himself from Mr Corbyn, while his party is forecast by opinion polls to sweep to victory in the election.

He criticised the Conservatives’ election offer as a “Jeremy Corbyn-style manifesto” that would “load everything into the wheelbarrow” without explaining how to pay for it.

An audience member asked the Labour leader about his remarks.

“You criticised the Tory manifesto as Jeremy Corbyn-like,” they said, adding: “Anything you want can go in it, nothing is costed. Why did you back his original manifesto in 2019?”

Sir Keir replied: “In 2019 I campaigned for the Labour Party as I’ve always campaigned for the Labour Party.”

He said that afterwards it became clear the electorate “thought it was too much and they wanted to see something which was fully costed and fully funded”.

Mr Corbyn has accused his successor of attempting to rewrite history with his recent comments.

The now independent candidate for Islington North said Sir Keir had displayed “double standards” in expressing this opinion now, but not while serving in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.