Labour hopeful Starmer says contest for Ipswich votes starts on day one

PUBLISHED: 08:59 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:31 02 April 2020

Sir Keir Starmer is clear favourite to become the next Labour leader. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

Sir Keir Starmer is clear favourite to become the next Labour leader. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

What should have been THE political story of early 2020 has been pushed into the sidelines by the coronavirus crisis – but on Saturday, Labour will unveil its new leader to take over from Jeremy Corbyn.

Former Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer is hot favourite to be declared winner at the weekend - and he has pledged that if he is confirmed as leader, the campaign to win the next general election would start immediately.

And he also promised that under his leadership, the party would take a leading role in both scrutinising – and supporting - the government during the current crisis.

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During an online press conference with journalists from across the south of England outside London, Sir Keir was asked how the party could win back seats like Ipswich where they suffered a crushing loss in December.

He said: “We will start preparing for the next election on Saturday. I know there are people around the country who want to work for that and who are working for that.

“These are difficult times and we have to do things differently. But the challenge starts right away.”

Labour Party members in Ipswich – one of the constituency parties that gave its backing to Sir Keir – had been campaigning on the doorsteps around the town for the local elections until they were cancelled as the coronavirus crisis gripped the country.

Sir Keir does not expect to join a national government to fight the current crisis, saying: “It is the job of an effective opposition to support the government when it feels it is right, but also to scrutinise and ask tough questions if there are problems.

“In the main we welcome the financial support it is giving families at this difficult time. But it is absolutely right that we question and highlight issues where there clearly are problems, like testing for the virus. That and the supply of protection equipment for front-line staff, are crucial issues and we must press them for answers on that.”

Sir Keir is widely expected to win the contest and the result will be announced by e-mail. He is being challenged by shadow business spokeswoman Rebecca Long-Bailey and backbench MP Lisa Nandy. Party members have been voting by post or electronically over the last few weeks.

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