Why won't you withdraw your 'Jeremy Corbyn a better PM than Boris' taunt, Keir? Labour frontbenchers distance themselves from Starmer over support for hard-Left predecessor

Sir Keir Starmer says Jeremy Corbyn would have been better than Boris JohnsonRishi Sunak said it showed Sir Keir 'doesn't deserve' to be next Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he found the Labour leader's claim 'utterly terrifying'

Sir Keir Starmer yesterday refused to take back his controversial claim that Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson.

Though the Labour leader would not repeat the comment, he also did not give a straight answer when he was challenged to stand by his words.

His own frontbenchers also appeared to distance themselves from the comment made in Thursday night's BBC Question Time debate.

Several Tory Cabinet ministers also waded into the row, with Rishi Sunak saying it showed Sir Keir 'doesn't deserve' to be given the keys to Downing Street.

Meanwhile, writing in today's Daily Mail, Mr Johnson said he found the Labour leader's claim 'utterly terrifying', adding: 'Keir Starmer genuinely believes that in the past five years, Jeremy Corbyn would have made the right decisions as prime minister for the security of Britain and the planet.

Sir Keir Starmer yesterday refused to take back his controversial claim that Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson

Sir Keir Starmer yesterday refused to take back his controversial claim that Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson

Though the Labour leader would not repeat the comment, he also did not give a straight answer when he was challenged to stand by his words. Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer on a visit to Bathgate in Scotland on Friday

Though the Labour leader would not repeat the comment, he also did not give a straight answer when he was challenged to stand by his words. Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer on a visit to Bathgate in Scotland on Friday

'Unless he revokes his endorsement of a Corbyn premiership... Starmer is simply not fit to be prime minister.'

Sir Keir, when asked by reporters in West Lothian whether he would 'take back' the claim yesterday, said: 'I'm fighting the 2024 election, not the 2019 election.'

Pressed again on whether he would repeat the claim, he added: 'Look, at the last election, the choice before the electorate was not a good choice.

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'We ended up with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister being booted out of Parliament after three or so years for breaking the rules.

'We ended up with Jeremy Corbyn being expelled from the Labour Party. That is why I have invested all of my energy and time in changing the Labour Party.'

Sir Keir was left squirming during Thursday's debate as he was grilled over his support for his predecessor.

He was pressed by host Fiona Bruce for a 'yes or no' answer as to whether he meant it when he said, in February 2019, that Mr Corbyn would make a 'great prime minister'.

The Labour leader replied: 'Look, he would be a better prime minister… look what we got, Boris Johnson, a man who made massive promises, didn't keep them and then had to leave Parliament in disgrace.'

His refusal to endorse or withdraw the comment came as two Labour frontbenchers struggled to defend it yesterday.

Asked five times if he agreed that Mr Corbyn would have been a better prime minister than Mr Johnson, Labour's science, innovation and technology spokesman Peter Kyle dodged the question, telling LBC that it was a period of 'difficult days in our politics'.

Shadow Paymaster General Jonathan Ashworth also refused to back the claim.

Sir Keir served in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet for four years and had urged the public to make him prime minister at two consecutive elections. Pictured: Keir takes a 'selfie' with Labour supporters in Scotland on a visit today

Sir Keir served in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet for four years and had urged the public to make him prime minister at two consecutive elections. Pictured: Keir takes a 'selfie' with Labour supporters in Scotland on a visit today

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Asked if Sir Keir was correct, he said: 'Jeremy Corbyn is not a Labour candidate at this election, but Liz Truss is a Conservative candidate because Rishi Sunak is a weak leader who is not prepared to make the tough decisions that are needed.'

Pressed on whether he agreed with his leader's claim, Mr Ashworth, who was caught criticising Mr Corbyn in a secret recording in 2019, said: 'You all know what I thought at the time, you don't need to ask me that.'

Sir Keir served in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet for four years and had urged the public to make him prime minister at two consecutive elections.

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EXCLUSIVE

BORIS JOHNSON: Unless Starmer revokes his endorsement for Corbyn, he's not fit to be PM

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Recently, the Labour leader has tried to distance himself from Mr Corbyn, who campaigned for years to ditch Britain's nuclear deterrent and leave Nato, and is standing as an independent candidate in the General Election.

In a speech in Wales yesterday, Mr Sunak said of the Labour leader's support for Mr Corbyn and his string of policy U-turns: 'Because [Sir Keir] has such a past, he doesn't deserve to decide your future.'

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: 'Jeremy Corbyn, if he'd become prime minister, would have pulled us out of Nato, would in effect have removed our nuclear deterrent because he said he'd never have been prepared to use it and would have presided over wrecking the economy.'

And Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: 'Keir Starmer still says this man, who let racism against Jewish people run rife within the Labour Party, a man who wanted to abolish Nato, scrap our Armed Forces and impose huge tax rises on everyone, would have been fit to serve.

'Keir Starmer must withdraw his offensive comments.'

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said: 'The idea that he would have made any kind of a decent job of being PM is absolutely outrageous. I

't's why people should not trust Keir Starmer.'

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