Keir Starmer has provoked outrage among Labour MPs representing Merseyside after he wrote an opinion piece for the Sun.
The Labour leader used an article in the newspaper to try to turn focus back on the government by laying the blame for food and petrol shortages on ministers. But he sparked ire from those who observe a boycott of the Sun over its role in smearing victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Frontbench Labour MPs were among those to challenge Starmer, who said during a speech in Liverpool last January during the leadership election: “This city has been wounded by the media – the Sun … I certainly won’t be giving an interview to the Sun during the course of this campaign.”
Alison McGovern, the shadow culture and sport minister, who represents Wirral South, said she had spoken to Starmer about his decision, adding in a tweet: “I don’t buy the S*n, or speak to them. That’s my decision. I have told Keir why.” Shadow trade minister Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, posted: “I do not buy the S*n. I will not be writing for the S*n.”
Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, said she and others felt “deep anger” that Starmer wrote a piece for the newspaper after it spent “15 years demonising Liverpool fans, blaming them for the Hillsborough disaster … before issuing a half-hearted apology for their lies and smears”.
She added she has asked Starmer to come to Liverpool to meet the families of the 97 people unlawfully killed in the 1989 crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground. Following the disaster, the Sun published allegations under the headline The Truth, including reports that Liverpool fans picked the pockets of those who died. During inquests into the deaths, the claim was debunked and supporters were absolved of any responsibility for the tragedy.
Peter Dowd, the MP for Bootle, said that only a couple of weeks ago, he and other Labour politicians in the region had spoken in a Commons debate about justice for the victims of public disasters, such as Hillsborough. “I cannot in any way support, condone or make excuses for Keir Starmer writing for the S*n – whatever the reason,” he wrote.
Steve Rotheram, Labour mayor for the Liverpool city region, said: “The piece published today has unsurprisingly upset a lot of people across my region. The S*n is not and never will be welcome here.” Len McCluskey, the former boss of Unite, who is from Liverpool, asked: “How could he dare write for the S*n?”
Starmer, fresh from a party conference blighted by internal rows over rule changes and his deputy Angela Rayner branding senior Tories “scum”, used his article on Sunday to warn that people could have “another Christmas spoiled by this prime minister’s lack of planning” and called for emergency measures such as issuing more visas to allow European workers to drive lorries and help with poultry preparations.