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Keir Starmer
Portrait photograph of Keir Starmer
Official portrait, 2017
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
4 April 2020
Monarch
Prime Minister
Deputy Angela Rayner
Preceded by Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party
Assumed office
4 April 2020
Deputy Angela Rayner
General Secretary
  • Jennie Formby
  • David Evans
Chair
Preceded by Jeremy Corbyn
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded by Frank Dobson
Majority 27,763 (48.9%)
Director of Public Prosecutions
In office
1 November 2008 – 1 November 2013
Appointed by The Baroness Scotland of Asthal
Preceded by Ken Macdonald
Succeeded by Alison Saunders
Personal details
Born
Keir Rodney Starmer

(1962-09-02) 2 September 1962 (age 61)
London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse
Victoria Alexander
(m. 2007)
Children 2
Education
Signature

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

Starmer was born in London and raised in Surrey, where he attended the selective state Reigate Grammar School, which became a private school while he was a student. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Leeds in 1985 and gained a postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Law degree at St Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford in 1986. After being called to the bar, Starmer practised predominantly in criminal defence work, specialising in human rights matters. Becoming a member of Doughty Street Chambers in 1990, he was appointed as Queen's Counsel (QC) in 2002. In 2008, he became Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, holding these positions until 2013. On conclusion of his five-year term as DPP, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours.

Elected to the House of Commons at the 2015 general election, Starmer was appointed Shadow Minister for Immigration by new party leader Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015. He resigned in 2016 as part of the wider June 2016 British shadow cabinet resignations in protest at Corbyn's leadership, but accepted a new post under Corbyn later that year as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union following the EU membership referendum. Starmer advocated a second referendum on Brexit, in which he stated he would vote to "remain"; this policy was ultimately included in the 2019 Labour election platform.

After Corbyn resigned following Labour's 2019 general election defeat, Starmer won the party's 2020 leadership election. His leadership has been characterised by movement towards the political centre and abandonment of the left-wing platform of his leadership campaign, as well as by opposition to some of the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and issues such as Partygate, the September 2022 mini-budget, and the cost of living crisis. Starmer has emphasised the importance of eliminating antisemitism in the Labour Party. In 2023, he set out five missions for a Labour government, targeting issues such as economic growth, health, clean energy, crime, and education. The party has seen varied results in local elections and by-elections under his leadership, but since late 2021 has maintained leads in opinion polling over the governing Conservative Party.

Early life and education

Starmer was born in Southwark, London, on 2 September 1962. He grew up in the small town of Oxted in Surrey. He was the second of the four children of Josephine (née Baker), a nurse, and Rodney Starmer, who was a toolmaker. His mother had Still's disease. His parents were Labour Party supporters, and named him after the party's first parliamentary leader, Keir Hardie. He passed the 11-plus examination and gained entry to Reigate Grammar School, then a voluntary aided selective grammar school. The school was converted into an independent fee-paying school in 1976, while he was a student. Although he was exempt from paying fees until the age of 16, his sixth-form study fees were paid by a bursary he received from the private school's charity. Among his classmates were the musician Norman Cook, alongside whom Starmer took violin lessons; Andrew Cooper, who went on to become a Conservative peer; and future conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan. According to Starmer, he and Sullivan "fought over everything ... Politics, religion. You name it."

In his teenage years, Starmer was active in Labour politics; he was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists in East Surrey. 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. Starmer studied law at the University of Leeds, graduating with first class honours and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985, becoming the first member of his family to graduate. He undertook postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, graduating from the University of Oxford as a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) in 1986. From 1986 to 1987, Starmer edited the radical magazine Socialist Alternatives.

Legal career

Barrister

Starmer became a barrister in 1987 at the Middle Temple, becoming a bencher there in 2009. He served as a legal officer for the campaign group Liberty until 1990. He was a member of Doughty Street Chambers from 1990 onwards, primarily working on human rights issues. He has been called to the bar in several Caribbean countries, where he has defended convicts sentenced to the death penalty. He 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. The case was seen as a David and Goliath case; a large team of leading lawyers represented McDonald's and the legal bills were estimated at £10m. By contrast Steel and Morris were denied legal aid; they acted on their own with help from lawyers including Starmer.

Starmer was appointed Queen's Counsel on 9 April 2002, aged 39. In the same year, he became joint head of Doughty Street Chambers. 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 and Commonwealth Office's death penalty advisory panel from 2002 to 2008. He 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". During this time he also marched and authored legal opinions against the Iraq War. In 2007, he was named "QC of the Year" by Chambers and Partners.

Director of Public Prosecutions

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, UK (8450776372)
Starmer as Director of Public Prosecutions speaking at Chatham House in 2013

In July 2008, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, 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 on 1 November 2008. Macdonald, himself a former defence lawyer, publicly welcomed the appointment. Starmer was considered to be bringing a focus on human rights into the legal system.

Within the first few months of his tenure, Starmer upheld the decision not to prosecute the police officers who had killed Jean Charles de Menezes in a UK High Court appeal lodged by the family. The family then gave up on pursuing charges and nobody has been charged with the death of de Menezes. Later in 2009, when the Conservative Party proposed repealing the Human Rights Act 1998, Starmer defended it as a "clear and basic statement of our citizens' human rights". Liberty and the Liberal Democrats supported Starmer, while the Conservative MP David T. C. Davies suggested he should be dismissed. In the same year, he called for the CPS to modernise by being more open to scrutiny and less reliant on paper files. In 2011, he introduced reforms that included the "first test paperless hearing".

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. They were all found guilty. In the same year, he supported proposals to legally recognise different degrees of murder. In 2010, and 2012, Starmer said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute two members of the UK security services for their alleged role in torture overseas; he supported further investigation. In July 2010, Starmer announced the decision not to prosecute the police officer Simon Harwood in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson; this led to accusations by Tomlinson's family of a police cover-up. After a subsequent inquest found that Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed, Starmer announced that Harwood would be prosecuted for manslaughter. The officer was acquitted by a jury in July 2012 but dismissed from the police that September. ..... He later produced guidelines to prevent women in similar circumstances from being unfairly prosecuted. In 2011, thirteen serving and former police officers were prosecuted for perverting the course of justice in the 1988 murder of Lynette White. The prosecution were unable to provide documents which "could have helped" the defendants, that were claimed to have been destroyed by the police officer leading the case against them. The prosecution made the decision, approved by Starmer, not to offer any further evidence, and the trial collapsed. Starmer ordered a review into the circumstances that had led to the decision and ordered a further review in 2012 when the missing documents were found.

During the 2011 England riots, Starmer prioritised rapid prosecutions of rioters over long sentences, which he later thought had helped to bring "the situation back under control". Later that year, after revelations concerning the undercover police infiltration of environmental campaigns, Starmer ordered a review of related convictions and invited protestors convicted of aggravated trespass to appeal their sentences. Starmer declined to authorise a wider enquiry, after a report from the judge Christopher Rose found the issue to be a result of individual fault rather than a systemic problem.

Keir Starmer DPP
Starmer c. 2012

In February 2012, Starmer announced that Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, and his former wife, Vicky Pryce, would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice in R v Huhne. Huhne became the first UK cabinet minister in history to be compelled to resign as a result of criminal proceedings. Starmer had previously said in relation to the case that "[w]here there is sufficient evidence we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians". Later that year, he wrote advice for prosecutors, saying that they should consider whether violent protestors organised or prepared for violence, compared to protestors who got "caught up in illegal actions". In the summer of 2012, journalist Nick Cohen published allegations that Starmer was personally responsible for allowing to proceed the prosecution of Paul Chambers in what became known as the "Twitter joke trial". Chambers' conviction of sending a message "of a menacing character" was quashed after a third appeal. The CPS denied that Starmer was behind the decision, saying that it was the responsibility of a Crown Court and was out of Starmer's hands. ..... At the end of 2012, he published guidance on prosecuting cases of grossly offensive posts on social media that called for caution in prosecuting cases, and considering whether users quickly removed posts or showed remorse.

..... In the same year, he altered guidelines for those improperly claiming benefits enabling them to face ten years in prison under the Fraud Act instead of a maximum of seven years under more specific legislation.

Starmer left office in November 2013, and was replaced by Alison Saunders. ..... On 28 December, he said to BBC News he was "rather enjoying having some free time" and "considering a number of options". There was speculation at the time that he would stand as a Labour Party candidate for the UK Parliament.

After stepping down as Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer was granted a tax-unregistered pension.

Early political career

Revealing Brexit documents (49188334841)
Starmer discussing the Labour Party's Brexit policies with Jeremy Corbyn, December 2019

Elected to the House of Commons at the 2015 general election, Starmer was appointed Shadow Minister for Immigration by new party leader Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015. He resigned in 2016 as part of the wider June 2016 British shadow cabinet resignations in protest at Corbyn's leadership, but accepted a new post under Corbyn later that year as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union following the EU membership referendum. Starmer advocated a second referendum on Brexit, in which he stated he would vote to "remain"; this policy was ultimately included in the 2019 Labour election platform.

Launching the 2019 General Election campaign (49013528712)
Starmer pictured with his shadow cabinet colleagues at the launch of Labour's general election campaign, 31 October 2019

Leadership of the Labour Party

Keir Starmer, 2020 Labour Party leadership election hustings, Bristol 1
Starmer speaking at the 2020 Labour Party leadership election hustings in Bristol, 1 February 2020

In the 2019 general election, Labour suffered its worst election defeat since 1935, with the Conservative Party earning an 80-seat majority. This was also the Labour Party's fourth consecutive general election defeat. Following this defeat, Jeremy Corbyn announced that he would stand down as Leader of the Labour Party. Starmer announced his candidacy in the ensuing leadership election on 4 January 2020, winning endorsements from MPs, as well as from the trade union Unison. Starmer won the 2020 Labour leadership contest on 4 April 2020, beating Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, with 56.2% of the vote in the first round, and became Leader of the Opposition amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

His tenure has seen the party move closer towards the political centre. By 2022, Starmer had abandoned the socialist platform he advocated during his leadership run, including pledges to nationalise public utilities, scrap tuition fees, and defend free movement within the EU—citing changed socioeconomic situation in the years since.

In a speech on 23 February 2023, Starmer set out five "national missions" which would be the basis for Labour's manifesto for the next general election, whilst calling for "a decade of national renewal". In the speech, Starmer aimed for the UK to obtain the highest sustained growth in the G7 by the end of his first term. He also aimed for the UK to be a "clean energy superpower" with zero-carbon electricity by 2030. Starmer also committed to health and care reform, improving the justice system and also to "break down the barriers to opportunity" with education and childcare reforms.

Starmer's leadership has been controversial within the party; it has been charged by party members with the allegedly unfair treatment of leftist Labour members, including the blocking of leftist candidates in local elections. The Labour Party lost almost 100,000 members during 2021. The Party has also been criticised for allegedly failing to respond to anti-black racism and Islamophobia within the party, as identified in the 2020 Forde Report commissioned by Starmer and conducted by Martin Forde KC. It accused the party of operating "a hierarchy of racism or of discrimination" in which certain forms of racism and abuse were not taken as seriously as others. Black Labour MPs have condemned the party's response to the problems raised in the report.

Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson
Starmer with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister Theresa May, 14 November 2021

Following past allegations of antisemitism in the party during the Jeremy Corbyn era, Starmer pledged to end antisemitism in the party during his acceptance speech. Starmer apologised for the "stain" of anti-Semitism within the party, adding that he would "tear out this poison by its roots". 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. Later that day, Jeremy Corbyn stated that "the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons". He was later suspended over his response to the report. On 14 November 2022, it was reported that the leadership of the Labour Party would not restore the whip to Corbyn, preventing him from standing for election on behalf of the Labour Party. In February 2023, Starmer's antisemitism reforms resulted in the party no longer being monitored by the EHRC.

During the 2022–2023 industrial strikes, Starmer urged his shadow cabinet members to refrain from joining picket lines. Sam Tarry, the shadow minister for buses and local transport, appeared at a National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers strike picket outside Euston train station. He was subsequently dismissed as minister, which was criticised by trade union leaders. However, a Labour Party spokesperson said that the sacking wasn't "about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions."

Since the end of 2021, Labour have maintained a poll lead over the Conservatives, including the highest poll lead of any party in over 20 years amid the government crisis during the Premiership of Liz Truss. During the 2023 local elections, the Labour Party gained more than 500 councillors and 22 councils, becoming the largest party in local government for the first time since 2002.

In September 2023, he reshuffled his shadow cabinet.

Political positions

Starmer's politics have been described as unclear and "hard to define". When he was elected as Labour leader, Starmer was widely believed to belong to the soft left of the Labour Party. However, he has since moved to the political centre-ground. By the September 2023 shadow cabinet reshuffle, most analysts concluded that Starmer had moved to the right of the party, but with elements of the 'soft left' remaining in the shadow cabinet.

The term Starmerism has been coined to refer to Starmer's political ideology and his supporters have been called Starmerites.

Domestic issues

Starmer has repeatedly emphasised the reform of public institutions (against a so-called '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', but the details of which will be subject to public consultation. He criticised the Conservative Party for handing peerages to "cronies and donors". Upon becoming leader of the Labour Party, he tasked former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown with recommending constitutional reforms to British democracy. The report was published in 2022 and was endorsed and promoted by Starmer, and recommended the abolition of the House of Lords, greater powers given to local councils and mayors, and deeper devolution to the nations of the United Kingdom.

Starmer supports social ownership and investment in the UK's public services, including the National Health Service (NHS). In 2020, he pledged to increase income tax for the top 5% of earners and to end tax avoidance by corporations, but he backed away from the income tax commitment in 2023. He advocates the reversal of the Conservative Party's cuts in corporation tax and supported Labour's anti-austerity proposals under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. On social inequality, Starmer proposes "national wellbeing indicators" to measure the country's performance on health, inequality, homelessness, and the environment. He has called for an "overhaul" of the UK's Universal Credit scheme. Opposing Scottish independence and a second referendum on the subject, the Labour Party under Starmer's leadership has set up a constitutional convention to address what he describes as a belief among people across the UK that "decisions about me should be taken closer to me". Starmer is against the reunification of Ireland, having stated that he would be "very much on the side of Unionists" if there were to be a border poll.

Starmer has taken a strong line in favour of green policies aimed at tackling climate change and decarbonising the British economy. Politico has described him as "a green activist to his core" and a "green radical", noting that while many other areas of the broader plan endorsed during his leadership campaign had been abandoned, "The party’s biggest climate pledge remains intact: a bold — some say implausible — commitment to remove fossil fuel power from Britain’s electricity grid by 2030, five years quicker than the Conservative government’s own target", calling him "dogmatic" about the plan. He and his Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves pledged in 2021 to invest an extra £28bn a year in green industries if elected; in June 2023 this was changed to £28bn per year by the middle of their first term of government.

On education, Starmer vowed in 2021 to strip independent schools of their VAT-exempt charitable status, a move that has been criticised by the Independent Schools Council, and continues to pledge to do so. During the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, Starmer pledged to scrap university tuition fees, however he dropped this pledge in May 2023 due to a "different financial situation" following Liz Truss' premiership, instead aiming to reform the tuition fee system, stating that "the current system is unfair, it doesn't really work for students, doesn't work for universities." He is supportive of faith schools, stating: "I think it's good that we create strong bonds within schools, and therefore I wouldn't tinker with the way that we run our faith schools." He has ruled out extending free school meals to all primary school pupils in England. Instead, Starmer has pledged to extend breakfast clubs including free breakfasts for every primary school in England.

Starmer's position on public ownership over national infrastructure has changed over time. In the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, Starmer ran on a pledge to renationalise rail, mail, water, and energy back into common ownership; he dropped this pledge in July 2022, claiming he would instead take a "pragmatic approach" to public ownership. As of September 2023, he remained committed to renationalising the railways as existing contracts expire, the creation of a publicly-owned energy company, and stricter regulation of water companies. Starmer favours partnership between government and business, having said: "A political party without a clear plan for making sure businesses are successful and growing ... which doesn't want them to do well and make a profit ... has no hope of being a successful government."

Starmer has pledged to 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." 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.

In 2023, the Byline Times wrote that Starmer "actively opposes a move to proportional representation for the House of Commons". The proposed change to a proportional representation system for the UK Parliament is supported by a two-thirds majority of trade unions that align with the Labour Party and was formally backed by an overwhelming majority of Labour delegates at the party's 2022 party conference. It was revealed in September 2022 that at that point, 370 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) had formally passed policy in favour of proportional representation, equating to about 60% of all CLPs in the UK.

After confirming he would not scrap the current two-child benefit cap, Starmer was criticised by many within his own party.

Foreign affairs

Secretary Pompeo Meets with Labour Party Leader Sir Starmer (50137663456)
Starmer meets with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, July 2020

Starmer voted remain in the Brexit referendum and then as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was an advocate for a second Brexit referendum after the process of the UK withdrawal from the EU was completed.

Starmer has advocated an end to "illegal wars" and a review of the UK arms export. During his leadership campaign, he pledged to create a "Prevention of Military Intervention Act", which would only permit lawful military action with the support of the House of Commons.

Starmer said that Israel "must respect international law" and called on the Israeli government to work with leaders of Palestine to de-escalate the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Starmer opposes illegal Israeli settlements, proposals for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, and "the eviction of Palestinians" in the Israeli-occupied territories; he also opposes the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. Starmer also has expressed support for the creation of an "inverse OPEC" dedicated to accelerating the implementation of renewable energy. He has rejected the contention that Israel is an apartheid state. In June 2023, he met with the Head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, in which Starmer recommitted the party to the recognition of a Palestinian state if the Labour Party wins the next general election.

Starmer supports maintaining the UK's nuclear arsenal as the nuclear deterrent, and voted for renewal of the Trident programme; he supports the general post-Cold War British policy of a gradual reduction in nuclear stockpiles.

During the 2023 Hamas-Israel War, Starmer emphasised his support for Israel, stated he would favour military aid to the country, and described the actions of Hamas and other militants as "terrorism".

Personal life

Starmer married Victoria Alexander in 2007. She was previously a solicitor but now works in NHS occupational health. The couple's son and daughter are being brought up in the Jewish faith of their mother. Starmer himself stated he does not believe in God but does "believe in faith" and its power to bring people together. He 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.

Starmer is a keen footballer, having played for Homerton Academicals, a north London amateur team, and supports Premier League side Arsenal.

Awards and honours

Order of the Bath knight commander civil division star (United Kingdom after 1950) - Tallinn Museum of Orders
The star given to those appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, including Starmer
Honorary degrees issued to Keir Starmer
Date School Degree
21 July 2011 University of Essex Doctor of university (D.U.)
16 July 2012 University of Leeds Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
19 November 2013 University of East London Doctor of university (D.U.)
19 December 2013 London School of Economics Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
14 July 2014 University of Reading Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
18 November 2014 University of Worcester Doctor of university (D.U.)

Publications

Starmer is the author and editor of several books about criminal law and human rights, including:

  • Justice in Error (1993), edited with Clive Walker, London: Blackstone, ISBN: 1-85431-234-0.
  • The Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the United Kingdom (1996), with Francesca Klug and Stuart Weir, London: Routledge, ISBN: 0-415-09641-3.
  • Signing Up for Human Rights: The United Kingdom and International Standards (1998), with Conor Foley, London: Amnesty International United Kingdom, ISBN: 1-873328-30-3.
  • Miscarriages of Justice: A Review of Justice in Error (1999), edited with Clive Walker, London: Blackstone, ISBN: 1-85431-687-7.
  • European Human Rights Law: the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights (1999), London: Legal Action Group, ISBN: 0-905099-77-X.
  • Criminal Justice, Police Powers and Human Rights (2001), with Anthony Jennings, Tim Owen, Michelle Strange, and Quincy Whitaker, London: Blackstone, ISBN: 1-84174-138-8.
  • Blackstone's Human Rights Digest (2001), with Iain Byrne, London: Blackstone, ISBN: 1-84174-153-1.
  • A Report on the Policing of the Ardoyne Parades 12 July 2004 (2004), with Jane Gordon, Belfast: Northern Ireland Policing Board.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Keir Starmer para niños

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