Keir Starmer defends giving advice to now-banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir

Labour leader advised the group before entering politics while he was still a lawyer

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions. AFP
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Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has defended previously giving legal advice to the now banned international fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, likening it to the relationship between a doctor and a patient.

Mr Starmer, a former lawyer, advised the group before entering politics, assisting it in a dispute with the German government.

He defended his record in an interview with The Sun by saying: “Lawyer gives legal advice, doctor treats patient.”

“Taking cases within your field of specialism, whether you agree with the client or not, of course I don’t agree with these people, but that doesn’t adjust the principle within our legal system that we have representation of both sides,” he said.

“Lawyers represent clients, doctors treat patients, but the fact a doctor treats a patient doesn’t mean the doctor agrees with what the patient’s beliefs are.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Lebanon-based political organisation, was proscribed by the government this year, making support for it a criminal offence.

It operates in 32 countries including the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, and has the long-term goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate.

Britain’s Home Office said Hizb ut-Tahrir’s praise for the attacks in Israel on October 7 by Hamas, whose fighters the group's website describes as “heroes”, constitutes promoting and encouraging terrorism.

It is the latest chapter in criticism of Mr Starmer since the war in Gaza started.

He came under pressure for his stance early in the war after claiming “Israel has the right” to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians after the October 7 attack.

He also voted against a ceasefire in Parliament, losing many councillors from mainly Muslim communities as a result of his comments.

But his party’s position has shifted over time. Mr Starmer backed a "humanitarian pause" and has since given his support to a sustainable ceasefire.

Last month, Labour put forward an amendment to a parliamentary motion, with the party calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. The motion was approved in the Commons.

Mr Starmer's party is widely tipped to win the next election, with the ruling Conservatives trailing Labour by 27 points in the latest YouGov poll.

Both main parties have stepped up commitments on law and order before the general election this year, with senior Tories believing a focus on "bread and butter" Conservative issues will help, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeks to overturn Labour's opinion poll lead.

Labour highlighted policing cuts under the Tories, accusing the ruling party of failing on criminal justice.

Mr Sunak recently dismissed speculation he would no longer be Prime Minister after local elections in May as "Westminster gossip”.

In a recent interview he insisted his plan for the country was working.

Mr Sunak was buoyed by a fall in inflation to 3.4 per cent in February, down from 4 per cent in January, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt hinting the improved economic picture could result in tax cuts and reductions in interest rates – which could improve voters' finances in the run-up to an election.

"I do believe that at the start of this year we have turned a corner after the shocks of the past few years and we are in a new economic moment and 2024 will prove to be the year that the economy bounces back," he added.

Updated: March 22, 2024, 11:39 AM