Sir Keir Starmer restarted his bid for the Labour leadership in Sheffield after cancelling a series of campaign events following the death of his mother-in-law.
The MP for Holborn and St Pancras spoke to supporters last night in a packed lecture theatre at Sheffield Hallam University.
Mr Starmer insisted he had the “ability to bring the party together.”
“If you want a party to be united, and tolerant where all voices are heard respectfully and equally, it has to be modelled by the leader of the Labour Party,” he said.
Mr Starmer said he recognised the catastrophic defeat Labour faced back in December, where the party lost over 60 parliamentary seats and fared significantly worse in Leave-supporting areas.
He claimed the media had “vilified” Jeremy Corbyn, and unlike previous Labour leaders he insisted they “stopped at nothing” to bring him down.
“I knocked on doors and did 44 constituencies in the election. I got people telling me why they wouldn’t be voting for Jeremy Corbyn, and they were giving me back what had been put there by the media,” he said.
“We didn’t just lose one election. We’ve lost four in a row — all with different leaders.
“If we lose the next one, in 2024, the Labour Party will be out of power for a longer time since the Second World War. A whole generation will not have had the benefit, or protection, of a Labour government.”
The Labour leadership candidate appeared calm and collected when answering questions from supporters.
Asked about his stance on anti-semitism within the party he said: “If you’re anti-semitic, you shouldn’t be in the Labour Party. That’s it. I will personally take responsibility to see the progress of these cases on my desk. I’m taking a line of sight on this.”
Mr Starmer ended his speech calling for Labour to be both “radical and relevant” to its members and the general public.
The campaign for the shadow Brexit Secretary has faced a few challenges. The favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn withdrew from leadership hustings twice last weekend to care for his family after his mother-in-law passed away in intensive care following an accident over two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the leadership campaign has flatly denied allegations of breaching data rules following reports of the team having accessed the party’s membership database.
A spokesperson for the team said: “We categorically reject these nonsensical allegations and are incredibly disappointed that they have been leaked to the media.
“We are still awaiting the party’s formal response to the serious concerns we and others had about access to Labour Party membership data.”
Mr Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey are seen as the leading candidates to emerge as the new Labour leader, with Mr Starmer receiving a nomination from Islington North CLP — the constituency of Jeremy Corbyn.
Both have attracted the most support from MPs, MEPs, constituency parties, and affiliate organisations.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry are also standing to become leader.
The campaign result will be announced on April 4.