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Keir Starmer

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Sir Keir Starmer
Portrait photograph of Keir Starmer
Official portrait, 2024
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Assumed office
5 July 2024
MonarchCharles III
DeputyAngela Rayner
Preceded byRishi Sunak
Leader of the Opposition
In office
4 April 2020 – 5 July 2024
Monarchs
Prime Minister
DeputyAngela Rayner
Preceded byJeremy Corbyn
Succeeded byRishi Sunak
Leader of the Labour Party
Assumed office
4 April 2020
DeputyAngela Rayner
Preceded byJeremy Corbyn
Shadow portfolios
Shadow Secretary of State
2016–2020Exiting the European Union
Shadow Minister
2015–2016home office minister
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byFrank Dobson
Majority11,572 (30.0%)
Director of Public Prosecutions
In office
1 November 2008 – 1 November 2013
Appointed byPatricia Scotland
Preceded byKen Macdonald
Succeeded byAlison Saunders
Personal details
Born
Keir Rodney Starmer

(1962-09-02) 2 September 1962 (age 61)
Southwark, London, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse
(m. 2007)
Children2
Alma mater
Occupation
  • Politician
  • barrister
Websitekeirstarmer.com Edit this at Wikidata

Sir Keir Rodney Starmer KCB KC (/ˈkɪər/ ; born 2 September 1962) is a British politician and barrister serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2024 and as Leader of the Labour Party since 2020. He previously served as Leader of the Opposition from 2020 to 2024, has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015, and was Director of Public Prosecutions from 2008 to 2013.

Born in London and raised in Surrey, Starmer attended the selective state Reigate Grammar School. He was politically active from an early age and joined the Labour Party Young Socialists when he was 16. Starmer graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Leeds in 1985 and gained a postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Law degree from the University of Oxford where he was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford in 1986. After being called to the bar, Starmer practised predominantly in criminal defence work, specialising in human rights. He served as a human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 2002. During his tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions, he dealt with a number of major cases, including the Stephen Lawrence murder case. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to law and criminal justice.

Starmer was influenced by his Northern Ireland policing work to pursue a political career, and was elected to the House of Commons at the 2015 general election. He supported the Remain campaign in the 2016 European Union membership referendum and advocated a proposed second referendum on Brexit. He was appointed to Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet as Shadow Brexit Secretary, and following Corbyn's resignation after Labour's defeat at the 2019 general election, Starmer succeeded him by winning the 2020 leadership election on a left-wing platform. As opposition leader, he moved Labour toward the political centre and emphasised the elimination of antisemitism within the party, and his party made significant gains in the 2023 and 2024 local elections.

Starmer led Labour to a landslide victory at the 2024 general election, ending fourteen years of Conservative government with Labour becoming the largest party in the House of Commons. Domestically, Starmer has said he will focus on economic growth, planning system reforms, infrastructure, energy, healthcare, education, childcare, and strengthening workers' rights, all of which were outlined in the 2024 election manifesto. He is also establishing the Border Security Command to replace the Rwanda asylum plan. In foreign policy, Starmer has supported Ukraine in its war against Russia and Israel in its war against Hamas, but has also called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip since February 2024, after previously declining to call for one.

Early life and education

Reigate Grammar School, where Starmer studied (pictured in 2009)

Sir Keir Rodney Starmer[1][2][3] was born on 2 September 1962 in Southwark, London.[4][5] He grew up in the town of Oxted in Surrey.[6][7][8] He was the second of the four children of Josephine (née Baker), a nurse, and Rodney Starmer, a toolmaker.[8][9] His mother had Still's disease.[10][5] His parents were Labour Party supporters, and reportedly named him after the party's first parliamentary leader, Keir Hardie,[11][12] though Starmer said in 2015 that he did not know whether this is true.[13]

Starmer passed the 11-plus examination and gained entry to Reigate Grammar School, then a voluntary aided selective grammar school.[4][12] The school was converted into an independent fee-paying school in 1976, while he was a student. The terms of the conversion were such that his parents were not required to pay for his schooling until he turned 16, and when he reached that point, the school, now a charity, awarded him a bursary that allowed him to complete his education there without any parental contribution.[14][15][16] The subjects that he chose for specialist study in his last two years at school were mathematics, music and physics, in which he achieved A level grades of B, B and C.[17] Among his classmates were the musician Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), with whom Starmer took violin lessons; Andrew Cooper, who became a Conservative peer; and the future conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan. According to Starmer, he and Sullivan "fought over everything ... Politics, religion. You name it."[8]

In his teenage years, Starmer was active in Labour politics and was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists at the age of 16.[18][8] He was a junior exhibitioner at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama until the age of 18, and played the flute, piano, recorder and violin.[19] In the early 1980s, Starmer was caught by police illegally selling ice creams while trying to raise money during a holiday to the French Riviera. He escaped the incident without punishment, beyond the ice creams being confiscated.[20][21] Starmer studied law at the University of Leeds, becoming a member of the university's Labour Club and graduating with first class honours and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985, becoming the first member of his family to graduate.[11][22] He undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford where he was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, graduating with Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree in 1986.[23][11]

Barrister

Starmer became a barrister in 1987 at the Middle Temple, becoming a bencher there in 2009.[4][5] He served as a legal officer for the campaign group Liberty until 1990.[11] Starmer was a member of Doughty Street Chambers from 1990 onwards, primarily working on human rights issues.[10][11]

Starmer was called to the bar in several Caribbean countries,[24] where he defended convicts sentenced to the death penalty.[8] In 1999, he was a junior barrister on Lee Clegg's appeal.[25] Starmer assisted Helen Steel and David Morris in the McLibel case, in the trial and appeal in English courts, also represented them at the European court.[26] Starmer was appointed Queen's Counsel on 9 April 2002, aged 39.[27] In the same year, he became joint head of Doughty Street Chambers. In 2005, Starmer stated "I got made a Queen's Counsel, which is odd since I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy".[28] During this time Starmer marched and authored legal opinions against the Iraq War following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, stating in 2015 that he believed that the war was "not lawful under international law because there was no UN resolution expressly authorising it".[29][8]

Starmer served as a human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Association of Chief Police Officers, and was also a member of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's death penalty advisory panel from 2002 to 2008.[5][11] The Northern Ireland board was an important part of bringing communities together following the Good Friday Agreement, and Starmer later cited his work on policing in Northern Ireland as being a key influence on his decision to pursue a political career: "Some of the things I thought that needed to change in police services we achieved more quickly than we achieved in strategic litigation ... I came better to understand how you can change by being inside and getting the trust of people".[30]

Starmer as Director of Public Prosecutions, c. 2012

Director of Public Prosecutions

In July 2008, Patricia Scotland, Attorney General for England and Wales, named Starmer as the new head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions. He took over from Ken Macdonald, who publicly welcomed the appointment, on 1 November 2008.[11][12] Starmer was considered to be bringing a focus on human rights into the legal system.[11] In 2011, he introduced reforms that included the "first test paperless hearing".[31] During his time in the role, Starmer dealt with a number of major cases including the Stephen Lawrence murder case, bringing his murderers to justice.[32]

In February 2010, Starmer announced the CPS's decision to prosecute three Labour MPs and a Conservative peer for offences relating to false accounting in the aftermath of the parliamentary expenses scandal, who were all found guilty.[33][34] Starmer prioritised rapid prosecutions of rioters over long sentences during the 2011 England riots, which he later thought had helped to bring "the situation back under control".[35][36] In February 2012, Starmer announced that Chris Huhne would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, saying in relation to the case that "[w]here there is sufficient evidence we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians".[37] In 2013, Starmer announced changes to how sexual abuse investigations are handled amid Operation Yewtree, including a panel to review historic complaints.[38][39][40]

Starmer stepped down as Director of Public Prosecutions in November 2013, and was replaced by Alison Saunders.[41][42] From 2011 to 2014, Starmer received honorary degrees from several universities, and he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to law and criminal justice.[43][44]

Early political career

Member of Parliament

My predecessor, the right hon. Frank Dobson, to whom I pay tribute, was a powerful advocate of the rights of everyone in Holborn and St Pancras throughout his highly distinguished parliamentary career. Widely respected and widely regarded, he served the people of Holborn and St Pancras for 36 years. Although I doubt I will clock up 36 years, I intend to follow in Frank Dobson's footsteps—albeit my jokes are likely to seem tame when compared with his, and I might give the beard a miss.

— Keir Starmer in his maiden speech to the House of Commons, May 2015
Official MP portrait, 2017

Starmer was selected in December 2014 to be the Labour parliamentary candidate for the Labour UK constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, a safe seat, following the decision of the sitting MP Frank Dobson to retire.[45] Starmer was elected at the 2015 general election with a majority of 17,048.[46] He was re-elected at the 2017 general election with an increased majority of 30,509, and re-elected again at the 2019 general election but with a reduced majority of 27,763. In June 2024, Starmer was re-elected as the Labour candidate for Holborn and St Pancras at the 2024 general election.

During the 2016 European Union membership referendum, Starmer supported the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU).[47] He became a member of the parliamentarian groups Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.[48] Starmer was urged by a number of activists to stand in the 2015 Labour Party leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party after the party's defeat at the 2015 general election. He ruled this out, citing his relative lack of political experience at the time.[49][50] During the leadership election, Starmer supported Andy Burnham, who finished second to Jeremy Corbyn.[51]

Shadow portfolios

Starmer was appointed to Corbyn's shadow cabinet as shadow home office minister in July 2015. He resigned from this role in June 2016 as part of the widespread shadow cabinet resignations in protest at Corbyn's leadership.[52][53] Following Corbyn's re-election in the 2016 Labour Party leadership election in September, Starmer accepted a new post as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.[54]

In his role as Shadow Brexit Secretary, Starmer questioned Theresa May and her government's destination for the UK outside of the EU, as well as calling for Brexit plans to be made publics and supporting a proposed second referendum on Brexit.[55] Following the party's defeat at the 2019 general election, Corbyn announced that he would not lead Labour at the next general election after "a process of reflection".[56] Starmer began to distance himself from Corbyn's leadership and many of the policies he put forward at the election, revealing in 2024 that he was "certain that we would lose the 2019 election".[57]

Labour leadership bid

Starmer's leadership bid logo

On 4 January 2020, Starmer announced his candidacy for the resultant leadership election.[58][59][60] He gained support from former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.[61] During the leadership election, Starmer ran a left-wing platform. He positioned himself in opposition to austerity, stating that Corbyn was "right" to position Labour as the "party of anti-austerity".[62][63] He indicated he would continue with the Labour policy of scrapping tuition fees as well as pledging "common ownership" of rail, mail, energy and water companies and called for ending outsourcing in the NHS, local governments and the justice system.[64] Starmer was announced as the winner of the leadership contest on 4 April 2020, defeating rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, with 56.2% of the vote in the first round.[65][66][67]

Leader of the Opposition

It is the honour and the privilege of my life to be elected as leader of the Labour Party. I want to thank Rebecca and Lisa for running such passionate and powerful campaigns and for their friendship and support along the way. I want to thank our Labour Party staff who worked really hard and my own amazing campaign team, full of positivity, with that unifying spirit. I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energised our movement and who's a friend as well as a colleague. And to all of our members, supporters and affiliates I say this: whether you voted for me or not I will represent you, I will listen to you and I will bring our party together.

— Keir Starmer's acceptance speech, April 2020

Having become Leader of the Opposition amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Starmer said in his acceptance speech that he would refrain from "scoring party political points" and would work with the government "in the national interest".[68] He later became more critical of the government's response to the pandemic following the Partygate scandal.[69] In May 2022, he said he would resign if he received a fixed penalty notice for breaching COVID-19 regulations while campaigning during the run-up to the Hartlepool by-election and local elections the previous year.[70] The controversy surrounding the event was dubbed "Beergate".[71] In July 2022, Durham Police cleared Starmer and said that he had "no case to answer".[72]

Starmer speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, 7 February 2024

Amid the historic number of ministers resigning from Boris Johnson's government in July 2022, Starmer proposed a vote of no confidence in the government, stating that Johnson could not be allowed to remain in office.[73][74] Starmer also criticised Johnson, as well as his successors Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, for issues such as the Chris Pincher scandal and subsequent government crisis, the economic crisis resulting from the 2022 mini-budget and subsequent government crisis, the cost of living crisis and the National Health Service strikes and other industrial disputes and strikes.

As Labour leader, Starmer focused on repositioning the party away from the left and the controversies that plagued Corbyn's leadership, with promises of economic stability, tackling small boat crossings, cutting NHS waiting times and ''rebuilding the NHS'', worker rights enrichment, energy independence and infrastructure development, tackling crime, improving education and training, reforming public services, renationalising the railway network, and recruiting 6,500 teachers.[75] Starmer also pledged to end antisemitism in the party.[76][77] In October 2020, following the release of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)'s report into antisemitism in the party, Starmer accepted its findings in full and apologised to Jews on behalf of the party.[78][79] In February 2023, Starmer's antisemitism reforms resulted in the party no longer being monitored by the EHRC, and Luciana Berger — a Labour MP who had resigned over the issue in 2019 — rejoined the party.[80]

Shadow Cabinet appointments

Starmer's Shadow Cabinet appointees included MPs from the left wing of his party as well as from the right. Angela Rayner was appointed deputy labour leader and shadow deputy prime minister, while Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper were appointed as shadow chancellor and shadow home secretary, respectively. Miliband was appointed shadow energy and climate secretary. Other notable appointments included David Lammy as shadow foreign secretary and Wes Streeting as shadow health secretary. When he became prime minister, Starmer appointed all these MPs to the respective government roles.[81][82]

Local election results

Starmer with Conservative leader Rishi Sunak (left), 7 November 2023

Starmer considered quitting after the party's mixed results in the 2021 local elections, the first local elections of his leadership, but later felt "vindicated" by his decision to stay on, saying "I did [consider quitting] because I didn't feel that I should be bigger than the party and that if I couldn't bring about the change, perhaps there should be a change. But actually, in the end, I reflected on it, talked to very many people and doubled down and determined, no, it is the change in the Labour Party we need".[83]

During Starmer's tenure as opposition leader, his party suffered the loss of a previously Labour seat in the 2021 Hartlepool by-election, followed by holds in the 2021 Batley and Spen by-election, 2022 Birmingham Erdington by-election and 2022 City of Chester by-election, and a gain from the Conservatives in the 2022 Wakefield by-election. During the 2023 local elections, Labour gained more than 500 councillors and 22 councils, becoming the largest party in local government for the first time since 2002.[84] Labour made further gains in the 2024 local elections, including winning the West Midlands mayoral election.[85]

Premiership (2024–present)

Labour entered the 2024 general election with a large lead over the Conservatives in opinion polls, and the potential scale of the party's victory was a topic of discussion during the campaign period.[86][87] In June 2024, Starmer released the Labour Party manifesto Change, which focuses on economic growth, planning system reforms, infrastructure, what Starmer describes as "clean energy", healthcare, education, childcare, and strengthening workers' rights.[88][89] It pledges a new publicly owned energy company (Great British Energy), a "Green Prosperity Plan", reducing patient waiting times in the NHS, and renationalisation of the railway network (Great British Railways).[90] It includes wealth creation and "pro-business and pro-worker" policies.[91] The manifesto also pledged to give votes to 16 year olds, reform the House of Lords, and to tax private schools, with money generated going into improving state education.[92][93]

In July 2024, Starmer led Labour to a landslide victory in the general election, ending fourteen years of Conservative government with Labour becoming the largest party in the House of Commons.[94] Labour achieved a 174-seat simple majority and a total of 411 seats,[a] the party's third-best result in terms of seat share following the 1997 and 2001 general elections. The party became the largest in England for the first time since 2005, in Scotland for the first time since 2010, and retained its status as the largest party in Wales.[95]

In his victory speech, Starmer thanked party workers for their hard work – including nearly five years of revamping and rebranding Labour in the face of Conservative dominance – and urged them to savour the moment, but warned them of challenges ahead and pledged his government would work for "national renewal":[96][97]

We did it! You campaigned for it, you fought for it, you voted for it and now it has arrived. Change begins now. And it feels good, I have to be honest. Four-and-a-half years of work changing the party. This is what it is for – a changed Labour Party ready to serve our country, ready to restore Britain to the service of working people. And across our country people will be waking up to the news, relieved that a weight has been lifted, a burden finally removed from the shoulders of this great nation. And now we can look forward. Walk into the morning, the sunlight of hope, pale at first but getting stronger through the day, shining once again, on a country with the opportunity after 14 years to get its future back. We said we would end the chaos and we will. We said we would turn the page and we have. Today we start the next chapter, begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country.

Entering government

Starmer giving his first speech as prime minister, 5 July 2024

As the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons, Starmer was appointed as prime minister by Charles III on 5 July 2024, becoming the first Labour prime minister since Gordon Brown and the first one to win a general election since Tony Blair in 2005.[98][99] He and his wife were driven from Buckingham Palace to Downing Street. Starmer stopped the car on the way back from the palace and went on a walkabout outside Downing Street to meet cheering crowds. In his first speech as prime minister, Starmer paid tribute to Sunak, saying "his achievement as the first British Asian Prime Minister of our country should not be underestimated by anyone" and he also recognised "the dedication and hard work he brought to his leadership", but added that the people of the UK had voted for change:[100]

You have given us a clear mandate, and we will use it to deliver change. To restore service and respect to politics, end the era of noisy performance, tread more lightly on your lives, and unite our country. Four nations, standing together again, facing down, as we have so often in our past, the challenges of an insecure world. Committed to a calm and patient rebuilding. So with respect and humility, I invite you all to join this government of service in the mission of national renewal. Our work is urgent and we begin it today.

Other world leaders including Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau, as well as former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, congratulated Starmer after he was appointed prime minister.[101] One of his first acts as prime minister was to say the Rwanda asylum plan is dead, and Cooper started setting out the first steps towards establishing a Border Security Command, to tackle smuggling gangs which facilitate illegal migrant crossings over the English Channel.[102][103] Starmer went on a tour of the four countries of the United Kingdom and met with leaders including John Swinney, Michelle O'Neill and Vaughan Gething.[104] He also met with the twelve regional mayors.[105]

Cabinet

Starmer attending his first Cabinet meeting, 6 July 2024

Starmer selected his cabinet ministers after his appointment as prime minister. His new government was formed throughout 5–7 July, with the new Cabinet first meeting on 6 July[106] and the new Parliament being called to meet on 9 July.[107] It has been noted for its female political representation, appointing women to a record half of the Cabinet (including Reeves as the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer in British history) and three of the five top positions in the British government, including Rayner as his Deputy Prime Minister.[108][109]

Starmer also appointed the scientist Patrick Vallance as Minister of State for Science, rehabilitation campaigner James Timpson as Minister of State for Prisons, Parole and Probation, and international law expert Richard Hermer as Attorney General for England and Wales.[110] The government includes a few ministers from the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, including Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper, David Lammy and Ed Miliband in the Cabinet, and Jacqui Smith and Douglas Alexander as junior ministers.[111][112][113]

Domestic policy

Domestically, Starmer said that his primary concerns would be economic growth, reforming the planning system, infrastructure, energy, healthcare, education, childcare and strengthening workers' rights, all of which were mentioned in Labour's 2024 election manifesto. One of his first acts as prime minister was the cancellation of the controversial Rwanda asylum plan; he described it as now "dead and buried."[114][115] Cooper started setting out the first steps towards establishing a Border Security Command, to tackle smuggling gangs which facilitate illegal migrant crossings over the English Channel.[116][117]

The 2024 State Opening of Parliament outlined 39 pieces of legislation that Labour proposed to introduced in the months ahead, including bills to renationalise the railways, to strengthen the rights of workers, tackle illegal immigration, reform the House of Lords, and undertake a programme to speed up the delivery of "high quality infrastructure" and housing. In addition, a number of bills proposed by the previous Conservative administration were also included, notably the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which had appeared in the 2023 King's Speech, but had been abandoned after the election was called.[118][119]

Foreign policy

Keir Starmer meets Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris for a bilateral meeting at Chequers, 17 July 2024

The first foreign meeting that Starmer attended as Prime Minister was the 2024 NATO summit.[120][121] On the flight to the summit, he laid out a "cast iron" commitment to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, following a “root and branch” review of the UK's defences.[122][123] At the summit, Starmer signaled that Ukraine could use the UK's Storm Shadow missile donations to strike military targets inside Russia, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[124] In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Starmer called for an "irreversible" membership strategy for Ukraine to join NATO.[125]

In July 2024, Starmer and US President Joe Biden discussed their shared commitment to the Special Relationship and mutual support of Ukraine. Biden also congratulated Starmer on "a hell of a victory".[126] Starmer has pledged support for Israel in its war against Hamas, but has also called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip since 20 February 2024, having previously refused to call for one.[127][128] In July 2024, Starmer assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UK would continue its "vital cooperation to deter malign threats" with Israel.[129] Starmer pledged to take a tougher approach to China on human rights and security issues.[130] Following the attempted assassination of Donald Trump, Starmer tweeted "Political violence in any form has no place in our societies" and offered Donald Trump and his family his best wishes.[131]

Political positions

Starmer with his Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, 6 July 2024

Views of Starmer's political philosophy are diverse. Some commentators, judging that Starmer has led his party rightward in order to improve its electability, have likened what he has accomplished in this regard to Tony Blair's development of New Labour. Others see his changes of policy as evidence that he has no clearly defined philosophy at all.[132][133][134] A third group think that Starmer does subscribe to a definite ideology and that it is towards the left end of the socialist spectrum, arguing that "Labour under Starmer has advanced a politics of anti-neoliberalism like that of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell", and that Starmer "differs markedly from New Labour" in "aspiring to restructure an economic model perceived to have failed".[135] Despite the lack of any consensus about the character and even existence of Starmer's ideology, it has acquired a neologism, Starmerism, and his supporters have been called Starmerites.[136][137] In June 2023, Starmer gave an interview to Time where he was asked to explain what his eponymous ism meant:[138]

Recognizing that our economy needs to be fixed. Recognizing that [solving] climate change isn't just an obligation; it's the single biggest opportunity that we've got for our country going forward. Recognizing that public services need to be reformed, that every child and every place should have the best opportunities and that we need a safe environment, safe streets, et cetera.

Starmer with his Deputy Prime Minister, Angela Rayner, 6 July 2024

In April 2023, Starmer gave an interview to The Economist on defining Starmerism.[137][139] In this interview, two main strands of Starmerism were identified.[139] The first strand focused on a critique of the British state for being too ineffective and overcentralised. The answer to this critique was to base governance on five main missions to be followed over two terms of government; these missions would determine all government policy. The second strand was the adherence to an economic policy of "modern supply-side economics" based on expanding economic productivity by increasing participation in the labour market, reducing inequality, mitigating the impact of Brexit and simplifying the construction planning process.[139] In the run-up to the 2024 general election, Starmer told the BBC: "I would describe myself as a socialist. I describe myself as a progressive. I'd describe myself as somebody who always puts the country first and party second."[140]

Starmer with First Minister of Scotland John Swinney, 7 July 2024

Starmer has repeatedly emphasised the reform of public institutions (against a tax and spend approach), localism, and devolution. He has pledged to abolish the House of Lords, which he has described as "indefensible", during the first term of a Labour government and to replace it with a directly elected Assembly of the Regions and Nations, the details of which will be subject to public consultation. He criticised the Conservatives for handing peerages to "cronies and donors".[141] Starmer tasked Gordon Brown with recommending British constitutional reforms.[142] The report was published in 2022 and was endorsed and promoted by Starmer, and recommended the abolition of the House of Lords, extending greater powers to local councils and mayors, and deeper devolution to the countries of the United Kingdom.[143] Labour's 2024 election manifesto did not recommend abolition to the House of Lords, instead committing only to removal of the remaining hereditary peers from the chamber, setting a mandatory retirement age of 80, and beginning a consultation on replacing the Lords with a "more representative" body.[144] Starmer strongly favours green policies to tackle climate change and decarbonise the British economy. He has committed to eliminate fossil fuels from the UK electricity grid by 2030.[145][146]

Starmer with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 10 July 2024

In a July 2024 statement to PinkNews ahead of the 2024 election, Starmer said his party supported LGBT+ rights, including strengthening protections against hate crimes targeting members of the LGBT community, "modernising" the "intrusive and outdated" gender recognition framework, and a proposed, "transgender-inclusive" ban on conversion therapy.[147][148] In the same month Starmer responded to a question by J. K. Rowling asking whether transgender women with a gender recognition certificate have the right to use women-only spaces, to which Starmer replied, "No. They don't have that right. They shouldn't".[149][150] Starmer has ruled out allowing transgender people to self-ID, and has also said he will continue the block on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland.[151][152]

In the wake of the Murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021, Starmer called for longer sentences for rape and sexual violence.[153] Starmer said he wants crime reduced, maintaining that "too many people do not feel safe in their streets".[154] He has pledged to halve the rates of violence against women and girls, halve the rates of serious violent crime, halve the incidents of knife crime, increase confidence in the criminal justice system, and create a 'Charging Commission' which would be "tasked with coming up with reforms to reverse the decline in the number of offences being solved".[155] He has also committed to placing specialist domestic violence workers in the control rooms of every police force responding to 999 calls to support victims of abuse.[156] Starmer said that Blair's era of New Labour was right to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".[157][158] In June 2024, Starmer pledged to reduce record high legal immigration to the UK,[159] and aims to reduce net migration by improving training and skills for British workers.[160][161]

In December 2023, Starmer praised Margaret Thatcher for having "sought to drag Britain out of its stupor",[162][163] saying Thatcher had "set loose our natural entrepreneurialism" during her time as prime minister, and used Thatcher, as well as Blair and Clement Attlee, as examples of how politicians can effect "meaningful change" by acting "in service of the British people, rather than dictating to them".[164][165] Starmer has described the Labour Party as "deeply patriotic" and credits its most successful leaders, Attlee, Harold Wilson, and Blair, for policies "rooted in the everyday concerns of working people".[154] Starmer advocates a government based on "security, prosperity and respect". In a speech in May 2023, Starmer stated:

Don't mistake me, the very best of progressive politics is found in our determination to push Britain forward. A hunger, an ambition, that we can seize the opportunities of tomorrow and make them work for working people. But this ambition must never become unmoored from working people's need for stability, for order, security. The Conservative Party can no longer claim to be conservative. It conserves nothing we value — not our rivers and seas, not our NHS or BBC, not our families, not our nation. We must understand there are precious things – in our way of life, in our environment, in our communities – that it is our responsibility to protect and preserve and to pass on to future generations. If that sounds conservative, then let me tell you: I don't care.

— Keir Starmer[166]

Personal life

Keir and Victoria Starmer outside 10 Downing Street, July 2024

Starmer met Victoria Alexander, then a solicitor, in the early 2000s while he was a senior barrister with Doughty Street Chambers and they were working on the same case. They became engaged in 2004 and married on 6 May 2007 on the Fennes Estate in Essex.[4][167][168] The couple have two children, a son, who was born a year after their wedding, and a daughter, born two years after that. Both are being brought in their mother's Jewish heritage.[169][170] Until moving to Downing Street, the couple resided in Kentish Town, north London.[171][172][173]

Starmer is a pescatarian, and his wife is a vegetarian. They raised their children as vegetarians until they were 10 years old, at which point they were given the option of eating meat.[174] In an interview during the 2024 general election campaign, Starmer said that his biggest fear about becoming prime minister was the impact it may have on his children, due to their "difficult ages" and how it would be easier if they were younger or older.[175] Before the 2024 general election, Starmer said in an interview that he would try to avoid working after 6 p.m. on Fridays in order to observe Shabbat dinners and spend time with his family.[176][177]

Starmer is an atheist; he chooses to take a "solemn affirmation" (rather than an oath) of allegiance to the monarch.[178] He has said that although he does not believe in God, he recognises the power of faith to bring people together.[179] He also accompanies his family to services at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London.[176][180] Starmer is a keen footballer, having played for Homerton Academicals, a north London amateur team.[12] He supports the Premier League side Arsenal.[8]

Starmer has written a few articles for The Guardian and other newspapers including the The Sunday Telegraph.[181] From 1986 to 1987, Starmer served as the editor of Socialist Alternatives, a Trotskyist radical magazine. The magazine was produced by an organisation under the same name, which represented the British section of the International Revolutionary Marxist Tendency (IRMT).[182][183]

Awards and honours

KCB breast star

In 2002 Starmer took silk being appointed Queen's Counsel (now KC).[184] He received the Bar Council's Sydney Elland Goldsmith Award in 2005 for his outstanding contribution to pro bono work in challenging the death penalty in Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and the Caribbean.[185] He was elected an honorary fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford in 2022.[186]

For his meritorious "services to law and criminal justice", Starmer was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours,[44][187] making Starmer a "Sir".[188] As a mark of respect for veterans, he can wear the Bath neck decoration on occasions such as Remembrance Sunday and the breast star at formal dinners when welcoming overseas dignatories.

Honorary degrees issued to Keir Starmer
Date School Degree
21 July 2011 University of Essex Doctor of university (D.U.)[189]
16 July 2012 University of Leeds Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)[190]
19 November 2013 University of East London Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)[43]
19 December 2013 London School of Economics Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)[191][192]
14 July 2014 University of Reading Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)[193]
18 November 2014 University of Worcester Honorary doctorate[194]

Starmer was sworn of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 19 July 2017,[195] entitling him to be styled "the Right Honourable".[196]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The figure does not include Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the House of Commons, who was included in the Labour seat total by some media outlets. By longstanding convention, the speaker severs all ties to their affiliated party upon being elected speaker.

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Further reading

Legal offices
Preceded by Director of Public Prosecutions
2008–2013
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras

2015–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
2016–2020
Office abolished
Preceded by Leader of the Opposition
2020–2024
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
2024–present
Incumbent
Minister for the Civil Service
2024–present
First Lord of the Treasury
2024–present
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Labour Party
2020–present
Incumbent
Order of precedence in England and Wales
Preceded byas Archbishop of York Gentlemen
as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded byas Speaker of the House of Commons
Order of precedence in Scotland
Preceded by
Shaw Patterson
as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Gentlemen
as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded byas First Minister of Scotland
Order of precedence in Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Sam Mawhinney
as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Gentlemen
as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by