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KEIR STARMER officially announced his candidacy for the Labour leadership today after accepting that Britain will leave the EU, adding that the party needs to “move on” from the referendum debate.
The pro-EU shadow Brexit secretary was one of the senior Labour MPs pushing for the party to back a second referendum.
Now, setting out his stall for his leadership after Labour’s heavy defeat in last month’s general election, he admitted that Britain should accept the 2016 referendum result.
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “We are going to leave the EU in the next few weeks and it’s important for all of us, including myself, to realise that the argument for Leave and Remain goes with it. We are leaving. We will have left the EU.
“This election blew away the argument for a second referendum, rightly or wrongly, and we have to adjust to that situation.”
His apparent acceptance contrasts with leadership contender Jess Phillips, who said she would not rule out Labour rejoining the EU in future.
As part of his attempt to position himself on the left, the former director of public prosecutions said Labour should not retreat from Jeremy Corbyn’s “radical” anti-austerity policies – although he claimed voters were turned off by the “overloaded” manifesto.
Ms Phillips said she would not commit to re-nationalising all key utilities, and described Labour’s free broadband proposal as “not believable.”
In what appears to be a bid to dispel criticisms of “centrism,” Mr Starmer released a four-minute video over the weekend, stating that as a lawyer he has stood up for left-wing causes.
He has been criticised for abstaining on the second reading of the punishing Welfare Reform Bill in 2015, his resignation from Mr Corbyn’s front bench in 2016 and his support for Owen Smith to replace Mr Corbyn in the leadership election that followed.
His video – which includes a shot of him hugging Mr Corbyn – states that he gave free legal help to Poll Tax protesters, “stood up for workers and trade unions,” opposed the Iraq war and took Tory and Labour governments to court over the welfare of miners and refusal to provide benefits for asylum-seekers.
Left-wing favourite Rebecca Long Bailey has yet to formally declare her candidacy, while some are pushing for fellow leftwinger Ian Lavery to stand.
Also in the running are Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.
Labour’s national executive committee will meet today to set the timetable for the contest, which is expected to formally start tomorrow.
The NEC will also set the “freeze date” for eligibility to vote for those signing up and the cost of becoming a registered supporter — non-party members who can vote in the race.
The new leader is expected to be in place by the end of March.
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