Press Release

Starmer promises to “be as bold as Attlee” in Big Issue exclusive challenging leaders on poverty crisis

Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, Ed Davey and John Swinney face a grilling on how they would eradicate poverty in this week’s Big Issue, out today

Inside the Big Issue

Today’s Big Issue (24 June) sees four UK party leaders – Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, John Swinney and Ed Davey – challenged on how they’ll end UK poverty if elected on July 4, with Big Issue vendors pitching in with their own questions.

Starmer says he has bold ambitions if, as the polls suggest, Labour emerges victorious. “I’ll be as bold as Attlee,” he tells the Big Issue. “I ran a public service during austerity, I saw the impact of the Tories’ decisions. There will be no return to austerity with a Labour government. We’ll have a decade of national renewal instead, with ambitious investment and reform.”

With 3.8 million Brits currently living in destitution, unable to feed, clothe and keep themselves warm 1, each party leader was questioned by the Big Issue on what they’d do if they encountered a parent, clearly in desperate need, stealing baby formula to feed their child.

“I’d offer to pay it,” Starmer says; “The desperation of families around the country should make the Tories feel nothing but shame.”

The Prime Minister disagrees. “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, and we’ll always support shopkeepers to prevent theft,” says Rishi Sunak. “At the same time, we will continue to help parents with the cost of living.”

“I’d try and try to persuade [the parent] not to, obviously,” Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey tells the Big Issue. “Try and find them other help, that would be the best way of doing it.”

“I’d discreetly offer to pay for the formula as no parent should ever have to face this situation,” says SNP leader and Scottish First Minister John Swinney. “Sadly this is not hypothetical – I meet with my constituents, and people across Scotland, every week who face this kind of hardship.”

How will the parties truly look to end poverty? Sunak says: “Work is the best way out of poverty, as Big Issue shows, and our welfare reforms have helped around four million more people move into work since 2010.”

Starmer, contrastingly, promises an “ambitious, wide-ranging child poverty strategy” and that a Labour government will “give all children in primary school free breakfast, protect renters from arbitrary eviction, slash fuel poverty and ensure work is decent and secure for all.”

All four party leaders were asked questions by Big Issue vendors. George Anderson (London) asks Sunak about why the Tory government has removed the increase in universal credit, while Josh Clarke (Bristol) questions Starmer on whether a Labour government would turn to abandoned buildings to house homeless people. You can read their answers in full in this week’s Big Issue.

Another question sees Rishi Sunak pressed on whether he’d rather have coffee with Keir Starmer or Nigel Farage, which he swerves in favour of a different companion. “I don’t know either of them very well. Keir Starmer hasn’t kept the same position longer than it takes him to drink a coffee and I don’t know Nigel Farage at all. I’d rather have a coffee with [Big Issue founder] John Bird!”

Starmer also dodges the question. He says instead he’d “get a takeaway and leave [Sunak and Farage] at the coffee shop to argue over which of them should be leader of the Tory party.”

To read the Big Issue’s leader interviews in full, buy this week’s Big Issue. You can find your local vendor to buy a copy, or subscribe online, at bigissue.com.

[1] 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022, including around one million children: https://www.jrf.org.uk/deep-poverty-and-destitution/destitution-in-the-uk-2023

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
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