KEIR Starmer laughed off his internal critics over plans to keep draconian Tory benefit rules during an interview with Tony Blair.

The Labour leader delivered the final speech of the day at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’s conference in London on Tuesday and criticised his opponents over plans to keep the two-child benefits limit.

In a question and answer session with the former prime minister, Starmer laughed when he spoke about the “tough decisions” he said a future Labour government would be forced to take.

Starmer is facing fury within his party – reportedly from some of his shadow cabinet – after he said he would not get rid of the limit on the amount of child tax credit or Universal Credit parents with more than two children could claim.

But he faced down his opponents, describing the anger which has erupted among Labour MPs as a “row” and said backing the harsh policy – estimated to have affected 1.5 million children since its introduction – would assuage concerns in industry about the spending plans of his party.

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He said: “The missions are strategic, long term, they’re about what change you’re going to make – growing the economy, NHS of the future, green power, smashing the class ceiling and security in our communities and also the ‘how’.

“How are you going to do this, how are you going to get business to partner alongside you and deliver on these missions.

“That’s why we’re having a row at the moment about tough choices, because we need to create the stability in our economy that is absolutely vital as a stepping stone to getting onto those missions.”

He added: “We keep saying, collectively as a party we’ve got to take tough decisions. In the abstract, everyone says: ‘That’s right Keir.’

The National:

“And then we get a tough decision – we’ve been in one of those for the last few days – and they say, ‘I don’t like that, can we not just make that one, I’m sure there’s another tough decision somewhere else we can make.’

“But we have to take the tough decisions. This isn’t some sort of reflection on some focus group that says we’d like Labour to have an economic straitjacket on – it’s the fundamentals.”

Starmer argued that a future Labour government would be severely restricted in its spending ability because of the economic damage caused by 13 years of Tory governments, the effects of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the disastrous Liz Truss budget.