Starmer says his suggestion members of the Lords should retire at 80 do not apply to world leaders

Keir Starmer has insisted that his suggestion members of the House of Lords should retire at 80 is not a comment on Joe Biden’s ability to continue as US president.

The newly elected prime minister and his wife Victoria are due to have dinner at the White House with the Bidens this evening on his first official visit since winning the election last week.

But Sir Keir arrives at a time when a number of senior Democrats have questioned whether the 81-year-old president is fit to run for a second term.

It followed a bumbling and confused performance against Donald Trump in the first presidential debate last month hosted by CNN.

There have been concerns about whether President Biden was too old for office and suffering from memory loss dating back to the 2020 election in which he beat Trump – who himself is 78.

Sir Keir’s comments about peers needing to retire at 80 were seen as unfortunate timing given the sensitivity of his visit to Washington.

But the Labour prime minister insisted his comments were made on a practical basis on the need to reduce the size of the Upper House.

He said: “In terms of the age in the House of Lords, the simple fact is that our House of Lords is massive. It’s the second biggest political chamber in the world.

“I think it’s only the Chinese who have a bigger political chamber than our House of Lords, we have to reduce it.

“That is the primary driver of retirement at 80. You can see why that needs to be done.  We’ve got 800-plus members of the House of Lords, it’s simply too big.  We need to reduce it.

“So it doesn’t reflect on how other elected representatives are chosen in other countries, it’s to do with the size of the House of Lords.”

Addressing what he hopes to get out of his first meeting with the president, it was clear that Sir Keir is looking to strengthen the special relationship between Washington and London.

Since 2020 relations have been strained because of President Biden’s opposition to Brexit and coolness with a succession of Tory prime ministers.

Sir Keir has already told The Independent that he hopes to revive Britain’s trade talks with the US which were shelved by Liz Truss and not taken up by Rishi Sunak.

The prime minister believes he can get a trade deal over the line with whoever is the president after November’s election.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “I’ve already had a phone call with President Biden.

“I want to follow up on that, this is obviously a very special relationship we have between the UK and the US.

“We have, within that, a special aspect when it comes to defence and security for obvious reasons including our commitment to Nato.

“We make a unique contribution in Europe to Nato and therefore it’s a very good opportunity for me to talk to the President about how we take forward the important work  at this summit.”

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