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Sir Keir Starmer dodges question over hiring of private healthcare lobbyist

The ‘Knight Commander’ was asked if he could still defend the NHS with the lobbyist on his staff

LABOUR leadership contender Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of refusing to answer a question from the public about his employment of a private healthcare lobbyist.

The question about whether he would still be able to defend the NHS was put forward by a young woman from the floor during an election meeting in Manchester on Saturday.

It referred to the hiring of Ben Nunn, who has worked as a lobbyist for the private healthcare sector.

Mr Starmer responded by saying that he would not tolerate attacks on his staff.

The issue went onto Twitter, where the woman, whose name is Lydia, said: “Not only was his response to completely avoid answering my question, but his supporters were heckling me before I’d even finished.

“My friends and I were told we were just trying to ‘cause trouble,’ and that we were too young to understand anything.

“The line pedalled by Starmer in his ‘response’ — that he, brave statesman, would never tolerate ‘attacks’ on his staff — was one repeated multiple times by his supporters to us at the end as we were trying to leave. But lobbyists aren’t just ‘staff’.”

The young woman branded Mr Starmer’s hiring of a private healthcare lobbyists “continuity Blairism.”

She added: “One lady was great, though. She came up to me at the end saying she had really been considering Starmer but now was going to change her mind.

“Not just on learning about Nunn but more due to Starmer’s chauvinistic, disingenuous and frankly insulting response.”

Other contenders for the Labour leadership also pressed on with their campaigns at the weekend.

Shadow Treasury minister for sustainable economics Clive Lewis told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme today said that the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union had an “undertone” of racism.

He has previously claimed that the low level of support that his leadership bid has received from fellow Labour MPs was also partly due to racism.

Mr Lewis is unlikely to be on the list of leadership candidates. He has been nominated by only four MPs — one of them himself — far short of the 22 needed by 2.30pm on Monday.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry is doing better, but must still find 12 more backers to stay in the contest.

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