Gary Neville: Labour's star guest urges party to get behind Starmer – BBC

  • September 27, 2022

By Joshua Nevett
Political reporter in Liverpool

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"I can do as much for the Labour Party being here today as I can do being an MP" – Neville
Former England footballer Gary Neville has urged Labour to "get behind" its leader to win power in a star appearance at the party's conference.
Neville joined Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the main conference stage for a chat about football and politics.
The football pundit – who joined Labour earlier this year – advised the party to be "laser-focused" on defeating the Tories at the next election.
But earlier, he ruled out a bid to become an MP for the party.
He said he had "no intention of going into politics" because "I love what I do" in football and business, putting to rest speculation he may seek a seat in Parliament.
"I feel politically motivated but I can do as much for the Labour Party being here today as I can do being an MP," Neville said.
The Sky Sports pundit and businessman was on the panel of a fringe event about the future of English football and recommendations made in a fan-led review of the game.
Later on, Neville took part in a discussion with Sir Keir, closing Monday's events in the main conference hall and adding a touch of stardust to the occasion.
Neville, who won 20 trophies as a Manchester United player, is an outspoken critic of the Conservative government and has used his platform to attack its policies.
When Neville appeared in front of crowds in Liverpool during his football career, he was usually greeted with a hostile reception, in the teeth of one of football's greatest rivalries, Manchester United vs Liverpool.
Today's event, however, saw Labour vs the Conservatives, and unlike his footballing days Neville – a former defender – was leading the attack.
The Tory government, he said, was riven by "division and tiredness" and the next general election could not come soon enough.
Neville received a standing ovation as he walked on stage with Sir Keir and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell.
What advice, Ms Powell asked, would Neville give to Labour to make sure the party wins the next election?
"Get behind Keir Starmer," Neville said. "He is a serious politician, someone who's headed up a major department in the CPS, someone who is trustworthy and has integrity. All things that this current government don't have."
There had been speculation that Neville could run as the party's candidate for the West Lancashire constituency when its current MP, Labour's Rosie Cooper, stands down later this year.
A by-election to replace Ms Cooper, who is taking a role with the NHS, is expected later in the autumn.
Previously, in an interview with the BBC's Political Thinking podcast, Neville said "I'm not saying never" when asked if he would run for public office.
But the football pundit said he thought he would get "eaten alive" in Westminster and questioned whether he had what it took to "survive" in politics.
Neville has also been talked about as a possible future mayor of Greater Manchester, a role currently held by Andy Burnham. "I'm not sure that would be for me to be honest," Neville told Political Thinking in January.
While he ruled out a career in politics at Labour conference, Neville did not shy away from commenting on the Tory government's tax cuts for the wealthy last week.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng abolished the top tax rate for those earning more than £150,000, in a so-called budget designed to boost economic growth.
Neville said he did not support the tax cut, which he said was "a shock".
"It didn't feel like it was reading the room in this country, when people are desperately worrying over the winter about how they are going to heat their homes," he said.
He said many millionaire footballers came from working-class backgrounds and wanted to ensure public services were properly funded instead of seeking tax cuts.
The main purpose of his appearance at the event was to discuss the idea of setting up an independent regulator for English football.
The government gave its backing to a regulator in April in its formal response to a fan-led review, but The Times reported that Prime Minister Liz Truss could be set to abandon those plans.
Neville said he would "be very disappointed to say the least if that were to be the case".
He said a regulator would help put football clubs on more stable financial footing and urged the Tory government to bring forward legislation to bring the plan into effect.
Using a football analogy, Neville said: "I have to say, the cross has been played into the box, all Liz Truss needs to do – along with other cabinet ministers – is head it into the back of the net."
Labour has committed itself to bringing forward the legislation needed to underpin a regulator at its annual conference, should the Conservatives not do so.
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