South West MPs back Sir Keir Starmer for Labour leadership

By Kira Taylor |

As the Labour leadership race continues, both Luke Pollard and Ben Bradshaw, the only Labour MPs in the South West aside from Bristol, have said they will support Keir Starmer.

Nominations for leadership closed earlier this week with five candidates making it through, including Emily Thornberry, who reached the 22 nominees required within minutes of the deadline.

Sir Keir Starmer gained the most nominations by MPs | Used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Both Ben Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, and Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, have said they will support Sir Keir Starmer as leader.

Mr Starmer is leading the race, having gained 88 nominations. Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is widely considered to be Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred replacement, came second with 33.

Luke Pollard said: “After a grim set of results for Labour in the General Election we need to elect a clear winner, someone who is a Prime Minister in waiting and someone who can unite our party.”

In his opinion, that is Sir Keir Starmer.

He is currently serving as shadow Brexit secretary and is a remainer, opening questions as to whether he can connect to the Labour heartlands, whose lack of support likely cost Labour the election.

A former QC, Mr Starmer was a human rights lawyer and director of public prosecutions, one of the highest officers in prosecutions.

The MP for Exeter has come out in support of Keir Starmer | Used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) licence

Mr Bradshaw said: “The first and most important [reason I am supporting him is] that he is the candidate with the best chance of reviving Labour’s fortunes quickly and giving us a shot at winning the next election.

“If we are serious about being an effective, credible opposition and prospective Government, we need to ask not who we would like, but who the public, the voters would like.”

Mr Starmer looks like a strong candidate with so many nominations from MPs, but will have to win over support from the left of the party.

Some from Momentum have criticised him for a decision on benefits claimants that some say have hardened public opinion towards claimants.

The new leader will be announced in April in time for local elections in May. Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the next general election isn’t due until 2024, giving the new leader time to prove themselves at the dispatch box.

Luke Pollard won his seat from the Conservatives in 2017 | Used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) licence

Mr Pollard also said he backs Angela Rayner for Deputy Leader, but nominated Dr Rosena Allin-Khan to ensure a BAME woman is on the shortlist as Mrs Rayner had already gained enough votes.

He added: “The Deputy Leader is not an understudy for the top job, it is a different role entirely, and I want to give Labour members a broad range of options. Both Angela and Rosena would be superb Deputy Leaders.”

Mr Pollard has recently been promoted from shadow minister for fishing to shadow environment secretary, making him Theresa Villiers opposite.

He said one of the most important things in a new leader is one who acknowledges the climate crisis, adding: “While the contest is going on, I am ensuring that the climate emergency is firmly on the political agenda in my new role as Shadow Environment Secretary and I have told each candidate I want to hear more from them about the climate crisis.”

Both Mr Bradshaw and Mr Pollard see Sir Keir Starmer as a politician capable of winning public support.

Mr Bradshaw added that Mr Starmer is not a “professional politician” and will “be a match for Johnson in the Commons and, with Brexit inevitably dominating our politics for a long time to come, Keir knows his stuff, and, unlike Johnson, is a master of detail, which is going to be vital for the political arguments to come.”