Keir Starmer has dismissed suggestions Labour has been absent as the Tory government has been floundering over the cost-of-living crisis.
The Labour leader has faced criticism for being on holiday over the past fortnight as the full scale of the crisis has emerged, with energy bills this week forecast to surge beyond £5,000 a year from January.
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has made a series of interventions, including a call for the temporary re-nationalisation of energy firms failing to bring down charges. Brown even warned “crises don’t take holidays”.
It came as the government has said no fresh rescue package will be announced before a new prime minister takes office on September 6.
But in his first interview since returning to the political fray, Starmer said it is “nonsense” to claim his party has not been leading on the cost-of-living crisis.
He confirmed he will announce on Monday further proposals on how to ease the financial pressure on families.
Starmer was interviewed by Iain Dale and Jacqui Smith at an Edinburgh Fringe event on Friday.
Dale said there had been criticism of Labour’s stance but said “all politicians have to take holidays”.
Starmer said: “This business that we haven’t been leading on this is pretty nonsense actually.”
He continued: “The Labour party actually has been all over this for the best part of a year because energy prices and what we would do about them was the dominant theme of our conference last year.
“I said we’ve got to have not just crisis management, but deal with the problem more substantially.”
Dale also asked the Labour leader to come up with a nickname for the prime minister, who has in the past taunted him as “Captain Hindsight” and “Captain Crasheroonie Snoozefest”.
He said: “What frustrates me is that if you’re the prime minister, you’re in the unique position of pulling those levers to make a real change for people.
“That man Johnson made promises he never intended to keep.
“They were empty promises. That is the worst kind of politics, pretending you’re going to do something – knowing you’re not going to do it and not caring.
“Levelling up, there isn’t a strategic plan or the resources to do it. Dealing with entrenched inequality is hugely important.”
He concluded by saying: “He’s a bullshiter.”