Gary Neville is set to ramp up his work with the Labour party and make a series of appearances beside Sir Keir Starmer in a move that will fuel further speculation the former Manchester United captain wants to run for parliament.
It is understood that Starmer thinks Neville, who became a Labour member for the first time earlier this year, has the necessary communication abilities to become an MP if he wanted to stand.
The Sky Sports pundit did a fundraising event in Manchester for party members alongside the Labour leader last week, which drew around 700 people.
Sources close to the Labour leader told City A.M. that Neville now wants to extend his involvement further and will be doing more events in the months ahead.
This could also involve appearances with other high-profile Labour figures.
“Keir and Gary did an event together last week and they were very relaxed around each other on stage – they seem to have a really nice relationship,” a source said.
“We’re really pleased he’s a member and that he wants to use his membership … but there have not been any talks with him about standing as an MP.”
Starmer has held several meetings with the ex-footballer and broadcaster, with the Labour leader impressed with Neville’s efforts in rallying against the breakaway Super League proposal last year.
A Starmer ally said “the guy won the treble as United captain – he’ll be a fantastic high-profile spokesperson for the party”.
Speculation has mounted that Neville is interested in standing for office, after becoming an increasingly vocal opponent of Boris Johnson over the past year.
The Sky Sports pundit has launched intermittent broadcast and social media attacks on the Prime Minister, which include labelling him a “liar” and the “worst kind of leader”.
Neville suggested Johnson gave the green light for three England players to be racially abused, after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final, in light of Number 10’s initial refusal to condemn the booing of footballers taking the knee pre-game.
“The Prime Minister said that it was okay for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality, and defend against racism,” Neville said.
A few days earlier, Neville said: “The standard of leaders in this country the past couple of years has been poor, looking at [England manager Gareth Southgate]. he’s everything a leader should be – respectful, humble, he tells the truth.”
The former United right back was coy when asked on a BBC podcast in January whether he would make a run at Westminster.
He said: “I say to myself sometimes ‘I’m able to communicate. I know what I want. I have got a business mind, I can manage people.’ But I just think I’d get eaten alive.”
Labour shadow culture secretary and Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell organised Neville’s first event with Starmer, after she had spoken to him on numerous occasions over the past year about joining the party.
“It’s a powerful endorsement by Gary that he has chosen to join the Labour Party. He hasn’t done so lightly but out of a strong belief that we need a change of government in the country,” she said.
Neville is not the first high-profile Manchester United figure to have a public role supporting the Labour party.
Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson campaigned for Labour during Tony Blair’s leadership, especially in the lead-up to the 1997 election, and even consulted the former Prime Minister about his difficult relationship with Gordon Brown.
Neville’s representatives were contacted for comment.