Keir Starmer has told Boris Johnson that Labour is ready for an early election if he calls one.
The opposition leader said he “wants the chance to make our case to voters” amid speculation the prime minister could trigger a snap poll in the autumn.
Allies of the PM believe the prospect of an election later this year will prevent any attempt by Tory MPs to remove him as leader over partygate or if the Conservatives do badly in Thursday’s local elections.
But speaking to HuffPost UK while campaigning in Worthing, East Sussex, Starmer said: “I’m ready any time for an election.
“We’ve done a huge amount of work in the last two years and brought about an incredible change in the Labour Party and moved from an opposition to an alternative.
“The fact that here in Worthing we’re talking about the possibility of a Labour council for the first time ever, I think shows how far we’ve come.
“We’re absolutely focused on the issues that matter most to people at the moment.
“I don’t mind when an election comes and I don’t mind who the leader is on the other side. We want the chance to make our case because Britain deserves better.”
Starmer also defended his decision to put Tony Blair in Labour’s latest election video, despite the former leader’s deep unpopularity with many activists who flocked to the party under Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: “I’m very clear that I’m happy to talk with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They won three elections and the whole purpose of the Labour Party is to be a party of government and to change lives.
“I didn’t come into politics to be in opposition. I want us to win an election because I want to bring about the change that a Labour government can bring about.
“I’m very happy to talk to winners and Tony Blair is a winner.”
On accusations that he has taken Labour too far to the right, despite pledging to maintain Corbyn’s legacy, Starmer said: “I’m focused on the electorate and the people I need to persuade to vote Labour and the millions of people who will be better off with a Labour government.
“What we’ve done in the last two years is to change the Labour Party profoundly. What’s driven that for me is the strong sense that if we lose as badly as we did in 2019, I don’t look at the electorate and say ‘what were you doing, why didn’t you hear us’.
“I looked at Labour and said we must change as a party, and we have, whether that’s with anti-semitism or whether that’s being completely clear about our unshakeable support for NATO. But more profoundly, aligning the Labour Party to the priorities of so many millions of people across the country.
“We got far too distant from the issues that most people in the country are talking about in their kitchens, in their cafes and in their workplaces.”