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Tories defend 'Better Call Keir' attack ad that seeks to highlight Labour leader's legal past

The Conservative Party has defended a controversial attack ad targetting Sir Keir Starmer, which seeks to draw attention to the Labour leader's advice to an Islamist group.

The ad - which plays on the legal crime drama Better Call Saul - said: "Are you a terrorist in need of legal advice? Better call Keir."

The ad, which was posted on X by the official Tory account, is a sign of how the party plans to highlight the Labour leader's previous career as a lawyer in its campaigning ahead of the general election.

However, a community note that now appears beneath the post reads: "While Sir Keir did represent Hizb ut-Tahrir he also went on to prosecute terrorists with links to Hizb ut-Tahrir as director of public prosecutions.

"There's is no evidence he invoiced them. Barristers may not withhold services based on a client's conduct."

During Prime Minister's Questions, Rishi Sunak accused Sir Keir of "doing one thing, saying another" with his decision to back the government's decision to ban the terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir - an organisation Mr Sunak accused the Labour leader of acting for.

"Don't take my word for it, the extremists' own press release said 'the Hizb ut-Tahrir legal team led by Keir Starmer'," the prime minister said.

"I know he doesn't like talking about them because they have been a client, but when I see a group chanting jihad on our streets, I ban them - he invoices them."

Earlier this week, Home Secretary James Cleverly announced the "antisemitic" Hizb-ut Tahrir Islamist group would be banned, in a move backed by Labour.

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The group has been accused of celebrating the 7 October attacks by Hamas which killed around 1,200 people and saw around 240 people taken hostage inside Gaza, and for chanting "jihad" at rallies in the UK.

Palestinian authorities say more than 24,000 people have been killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza since the Hamas massacre.

The Labour Party has pointed out that Sir Keir has never represented the group, but was instead asked to give advice to it in a dispute it had with the German government.

When it was put to the prime minister's press secretary that when the Labour leader provided legal advice to Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group was not designated a terror organisation in the UK, she replied: "No, but they clearly are now. And if you look back at the comments they were making at the time, they were pretty unsavoury."

She also said: "I don't run the Conservative Twitter account."

The new ad comes after Labour was criticised last year for suggesting in a social media post that Mr Sunak did not think child sex abusers should go to prison.

Labour today defended Sir Keir's legal background, saying the nature of his work was sometimes to advise clients he disagreed with.

A party spokesman said the Labour leader had never represented Hizb ut-Tahrir but was asked to advise it in a case with the German government.

"He was asked to give advice on that case. He never represented them and moved on to being director of public prosecutions at that time," the spokesman said.

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"The nature of being a lawyer is that you represent and give advice to a whole range of clients, including people that you don't agree with."

Asked whether Sir Keir opposed the group's views at the time, the spokesman said: "I think Keir Starmer's views on this are pretty clear".

Last year, Sky News reported how Labour insiders were concerned about Tory plans to ramp up attacks on Sir Keir's tenure as director of public prosecutions - something that has formed a core part of his political pitch to voters, but which the Tories believe make him vulnerable to attack.