India: Government must do more - Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told Sky News the Government must do more "where they can" in helping India's COVID crisis.

Video Transcript

- Well, let's talk to the leader of the Labor Party, Sir Keir Starmer, who joins us now. Good to see you this morning. Are we meeting our responsibilities as a nation when it comes to to the pandemic?

SIR KEIR STARMER: Well, across the world, obviously, there's huge concern, particularly in India. And I think that the more we can do to assist India, the better. And I know the government is already taking steps in that direction. And I urge them to increase that where they can. It's not to be a global response.

But I think it is a reminder that notwithstanding the successful rollout of the vaccine here, we won't be through this, truly through this until across the world, we've got the virus completely under control. And I think many, many people will be distressed looking at the situation currently in India.

- All right, can we talk about the elections this week? We've got local elections. We've got to bi-election. I mean, the Labor Party has been accused of being-- well, you know, a little bit policy lite going into these elections.

SIR KEIR STARMER: Well, what we've said is there should be 400,000 new jobs created. Bringing forward initiatives due to the next five years in local carbon areas. We've said there should be a guarantee for young people. That if young people have been out of work for six months or so, they should be in education. They should be in training. Or they should have a job guarantee.

We said we want more police officers on the beat on the streets, not behind desks. And we've been very clear about bringing down anti-social behavior. And a fair reward for those on the front line, particularly the NHS. Now they've been our priorities. And my job as leader of the Labor Party is to make it absolutely clear that I've got a burning desire to build a better future for our country. And that Thursday is the opportunity, the first real opportunity to take a step towards that. And to demonstrate that the priorities of the Labor Party that I lead are the priorities of the British public.

- But if those priorities are ones that resonate with the British public, then the polls must make some disappointing reading for you. I mean, you know, after the-- obviously, there's a scandal surrounding number 10 at the moment. We've got this huge recession, you know, the biggest and most aggressive recession facing the G7 because of the pandemic. Which, you know, is understandable. And yet, you're still trailing in the polls. I mean, quite significantly in some places.

SIR KEIR STARMER: Well, you know, there's no getting away from the fact that we lost the last general election in December 2019 very badly. The worst loss we've had since 1935. And my job as leader of Labor Party is to rebuild our party, reconnect with the public, rebuild trust. That will take time. But the most important thing is that I make it clear that I understand that every vote has to be earned.

It's why I've been across the United Kingdom talking to people in different communities. And in Hartlepool, three times, talking about the jobs of the future, things that really matter. But, you know, I know we've got to earn every vote. I know that we've got to rebuild after that devastating loss in 2019. It's a mountain to climb. But we're climbing it.

- I mean, forgive me though. I mean, when you talk about Hartlepool, there is one poll out of this. [INAUDIBLE] is one poll that we see that's got Labor nine points down at the moment.

SIR KEIR STARMER: Yeah, I've been in Hartlepool three times. We're having thousands of conversations with voters in Hartlepool with the teams that we've got there. There is a positive response. But we've got to build on that. We've got to earn every vote in Hartlepool. And, you know, in Hartlepool, the things that people have said to me matter most to them.

There's a nuclear power plant in Hartlepool coming to the end of its natural life. And everybody wants to know what's the next generation of jobs there. There's 750 Hartlepool jobs tied up in that power station. I was at Liberty steel on Saturday morning. 250 people, they're really worried. Steel workers worried about their jobs. And that is what matters most in Hartlepool. It's why Hartlepool needs a powerful Labor voice to stick up for those jobs and stick up for the next generation.

- Well, again, it goes back to the question. If that's what matters most and you think that's what Labor can deliver, then why are people not flocking to the Labor Party according to the latest polls? I mean, it begs the question as to whether you have pitched things in the right way in the run up to this. You've gone all out on the sleaze allegations. Has that been the right approach?

SIR KEIR STARMER: Well, we've put, first and foremost, actually jobs, the NHS front line, and getting crime under control, and dealing with anti-social behavior. They are our priorities. Of course, we have shone a torch on the sleaze because what we've seen recently is clear evidence that those at the top of government feel that the rules just don't apply to them. Whether that's contracts on WhatsApp groups, whether it's privileged access, or whether it's refurbishment of flats.

So general sense that there's one rule for them and another rule for everybody else. And coming out of a pandemic where people have really struggled for a year or more, the idea that somehow it's priced in, that that's how the government behaves, I think is completely, completely wrong.

- Again, you know, you're a year into the job. You know, you've got a lifelong Labor voter down in-- was it Bristol or Bath, throwing you out of his pub saying, you know, you'd let him down as Labor leader. I mean, it's a big obstacle to overcome. You don't seem to be managing it at the moment.

SIR KEIR STARMER: Since you put that example to me, let's just me clear about what the argument was about. That landlord believed that only old people were dying in the virus. And therefore there was no need for a lockdown, no need for restrictions. Having-- particularly since my wife works in the hospital, having seen what was happening at the height of the pandemic with over 1,000 people dying every day, I profoundly disagree with that.

Now, he's entitled to his view, of course, he is. I am never going to agree with the view that we didn't need a lockdown. And that the virus is only killing old people. I'm sorry, I don't.

- You're quoted in "The Times" this morning as saying you will take full responsibility for these election results when we get to sift through them Friday morning. If you don't do well, if you don't take Hartlepool, if you don't make significant inroads in the local elections, does that mean you're going to go?

SIR KEIR STARMER: Well, look, I do take full responsibility for these election results. I take full responsibility for everything that the Labor Party does under my leadership just as I took full responsibility for everything the Crown Prosecution Service did when I was director of public prosecutions. That is what leadership is about.

I am clear that my job as leader of Labor Party is to rebuild the Labor Party from where we were in December 2019 with the worst result since 1935 into a position where we could win the next general election. That is a mountain to climb. We are climbing that mountain. My job is to make it clear that the priorities of the Labor Party under my leadership are the priorities of the British people. And that we will face--

- I-- forgive me for jumping in, I know we're really tight for time. But if you say, you're taking responsibility, what does that mean if it doesn't work out the way you want by Friday morning?

SIR KEIR STARMER: We are fighting for every vote into this election on Thursday, earning every vote. That time out, pretty well every hour of daylight, fighting for those votes alongside the team that we've got. We'll go into Thursday with a very positive message about the change that we want to make for our country for the better. And indicating that this is the first step towards that change. The job of rebuilding the Labor Party was never going to be completed in a year or so. I don't think anybody realistically thought that. But these are a very, very important set of elections for us.