An aide to Keir Starmer has dismissed left-wing criticism of his leadership as “nonsense” that is not based in “the real world”.
Carolyn Harris, the Labour leader’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), told HuffPost UK that left-wing critics of Starmer are “making themselves look silly”.
It came after a coalition of MPs, unions and Labour members called Starmer to hold an emergency party conference amid speculation of a leadership challenge as members fear he is repositioning the party to the centre.
But Harris told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast: “All this nonsense about so and so and so and so is going to challenge him for the leadership – bring it on, because it’s nonsense.
“(They are) just making themselves look silly.
“Talking on Zoom, that’s all they are doing, talking to each other on Zoom.
“Come into the real world my loves and let’s talk about the damage that’s been done and the repair work that we’re doing.”
Starmer has also been criticised by figures on the left for not taking the lead over the Tories in some opinion polls despite Boris Johnson presiding over more than 100,000 deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labour leader has also drawn ire for not being detailed or specific enough about his policy platform.
But Harris said Starmer has been forced to spend much of the time since being elected leader last April rebuilding the party after December 2019’s crushing election defeat when Labour was reduced to “a laughing stock”.
“When I see these articles – I’ve actually done it this morning – when I see these articles which say so and so, so and so is going to be challenging Keir for leader and we need a left-wing candidate,” the Swansea East MP said.
“That’s the time I think god, we’re getting it right.
“We must be doing it right because this is what it’s all about.
“You’ve got to move on haven’t you?
“We had that project, it failed abysmally, we were a laughing stock, let’s make no bones about it.”
Harris said Starmer would be increasingly setting out policies over the next year having built Labour into a “credible opposition”.
Harris said she “cries” when she thinks about MPs Labour lost in 2019 in the so-called “red wall” like Vernon Coaker, Jenny Chapman, David Hanson.
“Parliamentarians to their fingertips – good, professional, excellent politicians, and we lost them,” she said.
“And we lost them because we were selling a vision that nobody wanted to buy.
“Keir had to come in, get rid of all that nonsense and start putting together a credible opposition and come forward with credible policy when we are in a strong place to deliver on it.
“We are getting to the place now, we are going to see the building blocks which he’s working on.
“We are a credible opposition and Keir Starmer will become a prime minister of this country, of that I’m absolutely certain.”
On Wednesday, leading left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon complained about Starmer’s polling performance during a crisis in which “the government’s inadequacies and failures and negligence has caused the deaths of, unnecessarily, tens and tens of thousands of people, over 100,000 people have died”.
He told BBC Politics Live: “We’re in the biggest crisis for decades and we’re not sufficiently cutting through at the moment.”
Burgon went on: “It seems to many people that the leadership has shown more enthusiasm for attacking the left in the Labour Party than it has for properly holding the government to account for one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world.
“That can’t go on, we need the leadership to take the fight to the Tories not take the fight to its own volunteers and members.”