Sir Keir Starmer admitted he has “kissed a Tory” and says he is not ashamed to have “broken the rule”.
The Labour leader said he was not “tribal” when it came to mixing politics and personal relationships, adding he had “very good friends” who were ardent Conservative voters.
In an interview with Times Radio, Starmer said he was focused on “building bridges” across the political divide.
The question came after one of his MPs, Lucy Powell, wore a t-shirt bearing the slogan “never kissed a Tory” during a Pride march in Manchester earlier this year.
The slogan, which was adopted by LGBTQI+ groups in the early 2000s, has been popular sight during demonstrations, while festival-goers at Glastonbury have also been pictured wearing badges and items of clothing containing the phrase.
Asked if he would ever wear one, Starmer replied: “Well I’m afraid I’ve broken that rule.
“I’m not tribal — I think this actually comes from coming into politics later in life.
“Outside of politics, most of the time, most people at home or at work see a problem, get people around and try to fix it and bring people together, bridge people together and do it. That’s what I bring to politics. Therefore, I’ve worked across parties.
“I’m on very good terms with many, many Tory MPs. I’m not ashamed about it and I’ve got very good friends who are Tories and they’ve been very, very good friends of mine for a very, very long time and long may that last.”
Powell attracted criticism for the shirt at the time, with one Tory MP, Sara Batcliffe, saying it promoted an “us vs them” mentality.
Another, Chris Clarkson, branded it “puerile and divisive,” while James Cleverly, then education secretary, joked that if Powell had asked nicely then “one would say yes eventually”.