KEIR Starmer has denied that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was ever his “friend” – despite having described him as such on multiple occasions.

The current UK Labour leader has blocked his predecessor from standing under the party’s banner at the next UK General Election, raising the prospect of Corbyn standing as an independent.

The former Labour MP has represented Islington North since 1983, winning with 73% of the vote in 2017 and 64% in 2019. A contest between Corbyn and an official Labour-backed candidate could prove a close-run race.

Speaking to LBC on Monday – marking his third anniversary as Leader of the Opposition – Starmer was pressed on his relationship to Corbyn, who he had previously called a “friend”.

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Starmer said: “I think and hope that my position is very clear. Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.

“That is a decision of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee of two weeks ago now, so as we go into the next election Jeremy Corbyn will not be a Labour candidate.”

Pressed about whether Corbyn was ever a friend, Starmer said: “No, not in the sense that we went to visit each other or anything like that. I worked with him as a colleague.

“As I say, I haven’t spoken to him now for two-and-a-half years.”

Starmer also insisted he had not backed Corbyn’s leadership of the party, but had accepted a role in his shadow cabinet to maintain an “effective opposition”.

He said: “Let’s just run through it. I didn’t vote for him in 2015 when he stood as leader. I wanted him to stand down in 2016, he won again. I again didn’t vote for him.

“But I did take the view that we needed an effective opposition, that I shouldn’t just walk off the stage.”

Starmer was a backer of Andy Burnham’s bid for the party leadership in 2015, and was a supporter of Owen Smith the following year.

Around the time of the 2020 leadership election which he won, Starmer referred to Corbyn as a “friend”, making a pitch to the left of the party.

He said after becoming leader: “I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energised our movement and who’s a friend as well as a colleague.”

But since taking over as Labour leader Starmer has walked back on many of the left-wing policy proposals which he made during the campaign, including key parts of his “ten pledges” such as backing “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water” and wanting to “end outsourcing in our NHS”.

Corbyn remains a member of the Labour Party but has lost the whip, meaning he sits in the Commons as an independent.

He was suspended over his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission finding that Labour under his leadership was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination as he struggled to tackle antisemitism.

He would be likely to be stripped of his Labour membership if he decided to stand as an independent candidate at the next election.