Sir Keir Starmer put clear blue water between himself and his left-wing predecessor Jeremy Corbyn today by declaring: “The Labour Party is under new management”.
During a lively debate over Russian interference at Prime Minister’s Questions, the new Labour leader called for Kremlin-backed news outlet Russia Today to be banned.
The position is in stark contrast with that of Mr Corbyn, who has appeared on the channel and previously endorsed it.
Sir Keir told the Commons: “One way the Government can seek to clamp down on Russian influence is to prevent the spread of Kremlin backed disinformation.
“Obviously social media companies have a big role to play but the report also highlights serious distortions in the coverage provided by Russian state owned international broadcasters such as Russia Today.
“The High Court has ruled that Russia Today’s broadcasts pose actual and potential harm. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that it’s time to look again at the licensing for Russia Today to operate in the UK?”
Boris Johnson hit back, saying: “This would come more credibly from the leader of the opposition had he called out the former leader of the opposition when he took money for appearing on Russia Today…he protested neither against the former leader of the opposition’s stance on Salisbury, nor against his willingness to take money from Russia Today.
“He flip flops from day-to-day. The leader of the opposition has more flip flops than Bournemouth beach.”
Sir Keir replied: “Pre-prepared gags on flip flops – this is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article ever published.
“In case the Prime Minister hasn’t noticed – the Labour Party is under new management.
“And no frontbencher of this party has appeared on Russia Today since I’ve been leading this party.”
During the heated exchange, Mr Johnson accused Sir Keir of having “sat on his hands” and doing “nothing while the Labour Party parroted the line of the Kremlin” in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings.
However, ten days after the attack Sir Keir appeared on BBC’s Question Time, saying: “It deserves to be condemned by all of us without reservation. Without reservation.”
Sir Keir asked the PM to withdraw his comment, adding: “I stood up and condemned what happened in Salisbury and I supported the then-Prime Minister on record. I urge the Prime Minister to check the record and withdraw that.”