Starmer was visiting the city, for the first time since writing a column for The S*n, to outline his plans for economic growth during a conference at The Spine.
During a trip to a local cafe, in the company of Liverpool’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, the Labour leader was confronted by Merseyside Pensioners Association (MPA) secretary Audrey White, who accused him of ‘feeding into Tory ideology’.
A video of the confrontation - shot by film makers Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell - has gone viral on social media.
White told LiverpoolWorld: “He’s made lots of promises which he’s reneged on, I know a lot of people in the Labour Party who aren’t enamoured. When I heard he was coming to Liverpool I thought this would be a great opportunity to corner him.
“I’m a 70-year-old woman from Liverpool, I wasn’t shouting, this was planned at the last minute, but I’m pleased I’ve done it because it has resonated with millions of people across the country and it’s been great.”
The Labour Party said it would not be commenting on the exchange.
Who is Audrey White? Campaigns and controversies
White led a long campaign against sexual harassment to change employment law after she was sacked in the 1980s for complaining about the harassment of women at the Lord John clothes shop in Liverpool, where she was a manager.
A film, Business as Usual, was released in 1988, where White was played by Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson, who was a Labour MP for 23 years.
White acknowledged to LiverpoolWorld that she had been suspended by Labour ‘at least twice and possibly three times for speaking out’ but maintained she had never been expelled by the Party.
She said she is currently under suspension for speaking to the Socialist Appeal newspaper.
In 2020, the Jewish Chronicle agreed to pay damages and issued a public apology to Ms White about articles published about her in 2019 which included details of alleged bullying and a plot to oust former Liverpool Riverside Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman.
Ellman, who was an MP for Liverpool Riverside between 1997 and 2019, left the party saying she was devastated to be ‘forced out after 55 years of membership’ saying she faced ‘horrendous treatment’ from some Labour members locally and the previous leadership.
She rejoined the Labour Party last year releasing a statement saying that Starmer had ‘shown a willingness to confront both the anti-Jewish racists and toxic culture which allowed antisemitism to flourish’.
In 2020, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found an inadequate process of handling antisemitism complaints in the Labour Party.
White says people have since shouted at her in the street and claimed a Labour councillor posted on the internet that she was antisemitic and published photographs of where she lived.
She said: “I have fought against racism all my life.
“I’ve been suspended a few times by Labour, the last time was for being interviewed by the Socialist Appeal, the other was for tweets, which was because I was saying I had won a libel case against the Jewish Chronicle.”
Suspension from the Labour Party
White said: “There is nothing clear cut you can answer to, you don’t even get the chance to have your say it’s hard to say what you were suspended for. I still haven’t been unsuspended from the previous suspension.
“You’re still a member until you’re expelled. I have never been expelled from the Labour Party.”
White said she told Starmer she was sending him a letter during their confrontation on Monday from her lawyer complaining about the ‘lack of due process’ over suspensions in the Party.
“I thought he might have engaged in conversation, it was only at the very end he said he had listened to me and would read my letter. He didn’t know what to say.”
Criticism of Keir Starmer
She added: “You look at Starmer, he’s not being criticised by the Labour Party in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn who is being attacked at every opportunity.
“The press are handling him with kids gloves and you look at the members of the Labour Party who are intimidated by threat of expulsion for saying anything.
“I’ve always stood up for justice and even the employment laws for women we fought so hard for are difficult to implement even though the law is on the statute books, women are still in the main in casual and insecure work.
“I’m still trying to stand up for ordinary people.
“Labour needs to find a way forward. It is bankrupt of ideas and doesn’t stand for the interests of the working class and equality across society.”
Who was behind the video of the confrontation?
Film makers Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell have been producing footage and programmes as part of The Art Of Resistance series for the Merseyside Pensioners Association.
Phil Maxwell said: “We got a tip off that Keir Starmer would be at The Quarter and it was an opportunity for Audrey to ask questions people have wanted to ask him for a long time.
“Many politicians have brick walls around them and ordinary people don’t have access.
“We think what Audrey has done is really positive. We are so pleased that this has been seen now about two million times across different platforms.
“It is no surprise to us that Steve Rotheram was with Keir Starmer as he sticks close to big business.
“He didn’t offer Audrey any empathy and if we are talking about double standards, he also pretends to care about the environment yet supports the expansion of John Lennon Airport.”
Labour and the Metro Mayor’s office have been contacted for a response.