KEIR Starmer appeared to be unable to back nurses’ demands for better pay despite his leadership campaign promising to “work shoulder to shoulder with trade unions”.

Grilled on whether he backed the Royal College of Nursing’s strike threat, the opposition leader said he wanted to see the pay dispute resolved.

But the Labour leader did not clarify if he backed their demands for an inflation-beating pay rise.

In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Starmer was asked whether he supported the nursing union’s strike ballot – which ends on November 2 – to demand a pay increase to avoid a real-terms wage cut caused by the soaring rate of inflation.

The union wants to see a pay rise of at least 5% over the current rate of inflation measured by retail prices, currently at 8.8%.

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Starmer said: “I completely understand why they’re making that ask. Wages have been very low for a long time, they’re working really hard and prices are going through the roof.

“I don’t want to see a strike, they don’t want to go on strike. What I want to see is that resolved.

“But I do understand that many working people – whether it’s nurses or others – are really, really up against it now and of course, they want negotiations to increase their wages.”

Host Susanna Reid interrupted him to ask: “But if you came into power, and you were in charge of their wages, would you grant it?”

He replied: “Well, there’s a mechanism to decide what that would be and we would let that run its course but I empathise, I understand why nurses are in the situation they’re in, why they’re considering industrial action.

“There’s a mechanism for dealing with their pay and I would want that to run its course, of course I would but the Government has put us in this position and we need to get out of this position.

“The only way, in the end, to get out of this position is to deal with the cost-of-living crisis because with inflation through the roof, prices through the roof, the economy tanking because of this Government, we need the stability that settles this situation because otherwise pay resolutions in a few months’ time is meaningless if inflation’s taken prices through the roof in six months or 12 months.

“We need a long-term answer to this.”

Labour was approached for comment.