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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Keir Starmer dismisses Jeremy Corbyn’s claim coronavirus response proves he was 'absolutely right'

New Labour leader Keir Starmer has broken with his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn (PA)

3 min read

Keir Starmer has dismissed Jeremy Corbyn’s claim the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis shows he was “absolutely right” about public spending.

The new Labour leader has decisively broken with his predecessor, saying the right thing to do is to help protect lives, not “claiming victory over arguments”.

He also hinted at plans to replace the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby, a key ally of Mr Corbyn, when he begins to appoint his new shadow cabinet on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Starmer was asked about the massive allocation of public funding to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods, and the comments by the man he has replaced that he’s “been vindicated by this”.

He replied: “I don’t think this is about vindicating Labour party policies, the country wants to see politicians and political parties pulling together to face coronavirus.

“Not claiming victory over arguments or otherwise, and I will work with the government to help and protect lives and protect our country.”

Last week Mr Corbyn said the scale of the current crisis had shown the Conservatives "that they have to spend money to invest in the state, as we have always said as a party”.

"I was denounced as somebody that wanted to spend more money than we could possibly afford, in order to write the social wrongs of this country,” he added.

"I didn't think that it would take only three months for me to be proved absolutely right by the amount of money that government is now prepared to put in - and Parliament has just voted through - to deal with the coronavirus crisis."

Elsewhere Mr Starmer defended his criticism of the Government’s handling of the outbreak after he wrote an article saying Boris Johnson had made “serious mistakes”.

He said: “We’ve got to pull together, support the Government where it’s right to do so, but asking those difficult questions matters.

“You can see that when the difficult questions were asked on testing, things began to move. Same thing with equipment on the frontline.

“Scrutiny is important here. Because if scrutiny points out mistakes that can then be put right, it’s an important thing. 

“But not opposition for opposition’s sake. I’m not going to score party political points and I won’t demand the impossible.”

And he also said he would back the health secretary Matt Hancock if he brought in tougher restrictions on outdoor exercise if people continue to flout social distancing measures.

He is expected to name his new top team, with junior shadow ministers Annelise Dodds and Nick Thomas-Symonds among those tipped for promotion.

The ex-shadow Brexit secretary said it will be “balanced across the party” as well as “balanced in terms of diversity” when asked if “Blairites” or so-called “moderates” will be welcome back into the fold.

"I will have in my shadow Cabinet those that want to serve towards the future aim of winning that next General Election”, he added.

But he refused to be drawn when asked if he would need a new general secretary, adding: "We've just lost four elections in a row, and therefore, of course, we need to change, because if we don't change we will lose the next general election."

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