Jeremy Corbyn was never a friend, Sir Keir Starmer claims

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Sir Keir Starmer has denied he was ever a friend of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite previously describing him as one.

The Labour leader sought to distance himself from Islington North MP Mr Corbyn, who now sits as an independent in Parliament following the party’s handling of antisemitism allegations under his stewardship.

While taking questions on LBC Radio to mark his third anniversary as Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir was pressed again about his relationship with Mr Corbyn, who he once described as a “colleague” and a “friend”.

Refugees welcome rally – Liverpool
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has represented Islington North since 1983 (James Speakman/PA)

“That is a decision of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee of two weeks ago now, so as we go into the next election Jeremy Corbyn will not be a Labour candidate.”

Pressed about whether Mr Corbyn was ever a friend, Sir Keir said: “No, not in the sense that we went to visit each other or anything like that. I worked with him as a colleague.

“As I say, I haven’t spoken to him now for two-and-a-half years.”

Sir Keir also insisted he had not backed Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party, but had accepted a role in his shadow cabinet to maintain an “effective opposition”.

He said: “Let’s just run through it. I didn’t vote for him in 2015 when he stood as leader. I wanted him to stand down in 2016, he won again. I again didn’t vote for him.

“But I did take the view that we needed an effective opposition, that I shouldn’t just walk off the stage.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer takes part in Call Keir, his regular phone-in on LBC’s Nick Ferrari At Breakfast show
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer takes part in Call Keir, his regular phone-in on LBC’s Nick Ferrari At Breakfast show (Owen Humphreys/PA)

During the 2020 leadership contest, Sir Keir described Mr Corbyn as both a colleague and a friend.

But the former leader has since rubbished the suggestion, and said he and his successor were not personally close.

Mr Corbyn remains a member of the Labour Party but has lost the whip, meaning he sits in the Commons as an independent.

He was suspended over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission finding that Labour under his leadership was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination as he struggled to tackle antisemitism.

Sir Keir barred his predecessor from standing for Labour again at the end of March.

Mr Corbyn has said he has “no intention of stopping” fighting for his constituents, who he has represented since 1983.

But he would be likely to be stripped of his Labour membership if he decided to stand as an independent candidate at the next election.

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