Former human rights lawyer and musician set to lead Britain’s Labour Party back to power

Married father of two, Keir Starmer is unlike most modern politicians.


UK Labour leader Keir Starmer is a former human rights lawyer and prosecutor who will have to focus his tireless work ethic and methodical mind on fixing the country.

If exit polls are confirmed, at 61, Starmer will be the oldest person to become British prime minister in almost half a century, arriving just nine years after he was first elected to parliament.

The married father of two is unlike most modern politicians: he had a long and distinguished career before becoming an MP and his views are based on pragmatism rather than ideology.

“We must return politics to the service of the people,” Starmer repeatedly said during the campaign, promising to put “country first and party second” after 14 chaotic years of Conservative rule under five different prime ministers.

That mantra is in keeping with the praise heaped upon him by his supporters, who see him as a reliable manager who will approach life in Downing Street in the same way he approached his legal career: seriously and forensically.

His detractors, however, call him an uninspiring opportunist who periodically changes his position on an issue and has failed to explain a clear and defining vision for the country.

Starmer, a passionate football and Arsenal fan, has struggled to shake off his public image as a retiring and boring person and has only recently begun to appear more comfortable in the public spotlight.

His supporters admit he lacks the charisma of flashier predecessors such as Boris Johnson, but they say that is where his appeal lies: a reassuring, no-nonsense presence after turbulent, self-serving years of Conservative rule.

With his grey pompadour and black-framed glasses, Starmer, named after Labour’s founding father Keir Hardie, is also the centre-left party’s most working-class leader in decades.

“My father was a toolmaker, my mother was a nurse,” he often tells voters, countering his opponents’ descriptions of him as the epitome of a smug, liberal London elite.

Starmer’s purge of leftists from his party highlights a ruthless side that has propelled him to Britain’s highest political office, but he is said to be funny in private and loyal to his friends.

He has pledged to maintain his habit of not working after 6pm on Fridays to spend time with his wife Victoria, who works as an occupational therapist in the National Health Service, and their two teenage children, whom he does not name in public.

“There is something extraordinary about his still being quite normal,” Starmer biographer Tom Baldwin wrote in the Guardian.

The best lawyer

Born on September 2, 1962, Keir Rodney Starmer was raised in a narrow, pebbly terraced house on the outskirts of London by a seriously ill mother and an emotionally distant father.

He had three brothers, one of whom had a learning disability. His parents were animal lovers and rescued donkeys.

A talented musician, Starmer took violin lessons at school from Norman Cook, the former Housemartins bassist turned DJ Fatboy Slim.

After studying law at Leeds and Oxford universities, Starmer turned his attention to left-wing causes, defending trade unions, anti-McDonald’s campaigners and prisoners sentenced to death abroad.

He is friends with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney from their time working together at the same law firm and once recounted a boozy lunch he had with her and her husband, Hollywood actor George.

In 2003, he began to move into the establishment, scandalising colleagues and friends, first with work to ensure that police in Northern Ireland complied with human rights legislation.

Five years later, he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for England and Wales when Labour’s Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.

Between 2008 and 2013, he oversaw the prosecution of MPs for overspending, journalists for phone hacking and youth rioters involved in riots across England.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II but rarely uses the prefix “sir”, and in 2015 was elected to Parliament, representing a seat in left-leaning north London.

Just weeks before he was elected, his mother died of a rare joint disease that left her unable to walk for many years.


Just a year after becoming an MP, Starmer joined a rebellion by Labour lawmakers over radical leftist Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived lack of leadership during the EU referendum campaign.

He failed, and later that year rejoined the leadership team as Labour’s Brexit spokesman, a post he held until succeeding Corbyn after he led the party to its worst defeat since 1935 at the last election five years ago.

Starmer brought the party back to the more electable centrist zone, purging Corbyn and stamping out anti-Semitism.

Dominic Grieve, who as Conservative attorney general worked closely with Starmer as district attorney, said he “inspires loyalty because he appears to be transparently decent and rational.”

“These are very important characteristics even if you don’t agree with a policy. And he comes across as a moderate man,” she told The Times.

However, the left accuses him of betrayal for abandoning a series of promises he made during his successful campaign for the leadership, including scrapping university tuition fees.

But his successful strategic repositioning of the Labour Party is indicative of one constant throughout his life: the drive to succeed.

“If you are born without privilege, you don’t have time to waste time,” Starmer once said.

“You can’t avoid problems without solving them, and don’t give in to the instincts of organizations that don’t embrace change.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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