Sir Keir Starmer was up this morning in Bristol, giving a big speech on the importance of transparency. The Tories, he gravely intoned, had wrecked Britain, with their relentless sleaze and cronyism. So it must have been, er, sub-optimal then for the Labour leader to have his big speech blown off course when Jim Pickard of the Financial Times threw him a curveball in the Q&A.
Back in June, the paper published the contents of an internal JP Morgan report which laid bare the extent of Jeffrey Epstein’s contact with Peter Mandelson that describes repeated meetings between the disgraced financier and the politician he knew as ‘Petie’. It suggests that in June 2009, when he was Gordon Brown’s Business Secretary, Mandelson stayed at Epstein’s lavish townhouse in Manhattan, while the financier was in prison for soliciting prostitution from a minor.
A spokesman for the Labour peer told the FT in June that: ‘He never had any kind of professional or business relationship with Epstein in any form.’ But Pickard asked Starmer whether Mandelson – described in the Guardian as a ‘core part’ of his ‘network’ – had questions to answer. The reply of the former Director of Public Prosecutions was one of the more succinct he gave this morning:
On Peter Mandelson, look, and I do try to give pretty full answers in these sessions, I don’t know any more than you do and therefore there’s not really much I can add to what you already know, I’m afraid, you know that’s simply the state of the affairs, thank you Jim.
You can watch his answer below: