Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly denied that he ever considered it Jeremy Corbyn like a friend”. The Labor leader, who has tried to distance himself from his predecessor, was mocked during a phone call on LBC to Nick Ferrari over his personal relationship with the Islington North MP.
Sir Keir insisted Mr Corbyn, who currently sits as an Independent MP following a row over anti-Semitism, has never been a “friend”, despite the presenter pointing out he used the term to describe him in 2020.
Mr. Ferrari asked, “Is he a friend? Was he a friend?”
Sir Keir replied, “No, I haven’t spoken to him for two and a half years.”
The LBC presenter said: “In 2020 he was a friend Sir Keir…”
Sir Keir said: “Well I worked with him, let’s go over it. I didn’t vote for him in 2015 when he was leader, I wanted him to step down in 2016, he won again, I didn’t vote.” for him.
“But I did believe that we needed effective opposition and that I shouldn’t just walk off the podium.”
Mr Ferrari stressed that Sir Keir said of Mr Corbyn in 2020: “He’s a colleague, he’s a friend and he’s seen us through some very difficult times in the Labor Party.”
The LBC presenter added: “Now isn’t he a friend?”
Sir Keir said: “Because Nick is very outspoken, tomorrow is my three-year anniversary as leader and the very first thing I said when I became leader was that I would root out anti-Semitism.
“I apologized for what happened and I asked those who were most hurt by what happened in regards to anti-Semitism just to give me space to show what I could do.
“I didn’t think I could ask them for their support, I said give me space to show that I mean what I say.
“I meant what I said, that’s why Jereym Corbyn lost the whip when he reacted as he did to the terrible report about anti-Semitism and why he’s not running for Labor now.”
Mr. Ferrari asked one last time, “But he was never a friend?”
Sir Keir said: “Not in the sense that we went to see each other or anything like that. I worked with him as a colleague, but as I said I haven’t spoken to Jeremy for two and a half years now.”
It comes after Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last week backed a proposal by Sir Keir not to support Mr Corbyn contesting Islington North for the party in the next general election.
The former Labor leader called the move a “shameful attack on party democracy”, with the move threatening to spark another row with MPs on the party’s left.
Mr Corbyn has also hinted that he will position himself as an independent, saying: “I will not be intimidated into silence. I have spent my life fighting for a fairer society on behalf of the people of Islington North, and I am not of plan to stop now.” .”
If he were to run as an independent in the seat he has held since 1983, he could present a distracting challenge to Sir Keir in the next election.
The veteran left-winger remains a Labor member but sits in the House of Commons as an independent after losing the whip in 2020 over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s damning report on anti-Semitism in the party.