Sir Keir Starmer failed to rule out a host of tax rises last night, as he squirmed over his past support for Jeremy Corbyn.

In a live television grilling, the Labour leader was skewered over his record of U-turns and policy flip-flops.

He was reminded how he twice backed Mr Corbyn, even saying he would make a great prime minister – only to now insist that he never believed his predecessor would actually win the 2019 election.

In front of an invited audience in Grimsby Town Hall, Sir Keir refused to rule out increases on council tax, fuel duty and capital gains, instead only promising that he would not raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT

The Labour leader was asked by Sky's Beth Rigby how people can 'trust anything you say' after his catalogue of 'broken promises and changed positions'.

Sir Keir said that after Labour's catastrophic loss at the 2019 general election, as voters roundly rejected Mr Corbyn's Left-wing agenda, he decided he needed to change the party.

'I concluded that I should listen to the electorate', he said.

'And when you lose that badly, you don't look to the voters and say, 'What on earth do you think you were doing?' What guided me through that at all times is that the country must come first and the party second.'

Asked if he meant it when he said his predecessor Mr Corbyn would make a great PM, Sir Keir replied: 'I was certain that we would lose the 2019 election.'

Rishi Sunak was also grilled in a separate interview with Ms Rigby. 

Sir Keir drew mocking laughter from the audience as he reminded them that his father was a 'toolmaker', a line he has trotted out repeatedly during the campaign.

He was pressed on his planned tax raid on private schools by a member of the audience who said he would be priced out of sending his daughter to one.

Hussain, from London, urged the Labour leader to reconsider imposing VAT on private education – warning that the 'ultimate losers' would be children as class sizes in the state sector would increase.

Sir Keir insisted he had 'nothing against private schools' and recognised that 'many parents work hard and save hard to send their children to private schools'. 

'I equally accept that every parent – every parent – has aspiration for their children whether they go to private school or not.'

But, he said, the extra money was needed to recruit 6,500 more teachers, and insisted: 'It's a tax break that we are removing. It's not an introduction of a new tax.'

The Labour leader also confirmed that his manifesto, to be revealed today, would not contain a pledge to axe the two-child benefit cap despite pressure from within his own party. 

The limit prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit on more than two children.

He said it had been a 'really difficult decision' but said inheriting a 'broken economy' restricted him. Sir Keir admitted previous leaders have 'pulled the tax lever' but said his priority was to grow the economy.

He was left briefly speechless when an audience member accused him of being a 'political robot'.

Sir Keir also revealed his wife, Victoria, was not keen on him becoming a politician after being director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service. 

'She thought it'd be far better to continue being a lawyer on a reasonable salary and not have all of the challenges that you get as a politician,' he said.

A YouGov poll after last night's broadcast found 64 per cent of voters thought Sir Keir performed better than Mr Sunak on 36 per cent.

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2024-06-13T01:16:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd