NEW Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has indicated that ex-Blackburn MP Jack Straw will have a bigger part to play in the party.

Asked if he would elevate the former cabinet minister, sidelined by his two predecessors, to the House of Lords he said: “I know Jack very well and hold him in very high esteem.”

But he held out little hope of former Blackburn with Darwen Council deputy leader Cllr Andy Kay, expelled from the party over an allegedly anti-Semitic Facebook post, being readmitted.

Sir Keir was speaking after a virtual ‘Town Hall meeting’ with Lancashire voters where topics ranged from coronavirus and Brexit through social care to why Burnley elected its first Conservative MP for 109 years.

Asked by the Lancashire Telegraph if he would recommend Mr Straw as a working peer, he said: “That’s not a question I could possibly answer at the moment other than to say that Jack Straw has got a huge reputation in the Labour movement. I know Jack very well and hold him in very high esteem.”

Asked about Cllr Kay’s appeal against expulsion, Sir Keir said: “ What’s important is that we have a proper effective disciplinary process and it’s not right for me to comment on any individual cases.

“I should add broadly, and not on the specific case, that one of the pledges I made in the leadership campaign was to root out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and that is what I am determined to do.”

Tackled on the family of Bacup 24-year-old Kristian Johnson’s anger at the three-year detention sentence imposed on the drink-driver who killed him in June last year, Sir Keir said he would urge the government to press ahead with a review of sentencing for such offences.

Sir Keir said: “ I do know there’s growing concern about the levels of sentencing in relationship to driving offences and I do think it’s something we should constantly revisit particularly when a grieving family, such as in this case, ask us to do so.

“I’m very sympathetic to this and on the back of this case I think we will look again at what the government has done.

"They did promise to review and look at this and haven’t done it.”

On winning back Burnley for Labour after December’s shock election of Tory MP Antony Higginbotham, Sir Keir said: “The first step would be to be in Burnley talking to people. I’ve been before and I’ll come again.”

On Brexit he said: “I campaigned for us to remain. When the referendum result came out, I said we’ve got to accept it.

“The problem I felt was that we hadn’t answered the question about what are the terms on which we are leaving and I was genuinely worried about manufacturing.

“We did try to put a deal forward. It didn’t work.

"That’s how we got to the election in the position we did. The whole argument about Leave/Remain is over.

"Now what we’ve got to do is face getting the best deal we can with the EU.

“I understand that having gone through that election and come out so badly that it’s my job as leader of the Labour Party to try to win trust back and that’s going to take time.”