Keir Starmer: five things you didn’t know about the Labour leader
The opposition leader will try to shake off his staid image in an ITV interview with Piers Morgan this evening
Keir Starmer may have been branded boring by his critics, but an interview with Piers Morgan promises to show a new side to the former chief prosecutor turned Labour leader.
The 58-year-old MP for Holborn and St Pancras will be hoping to boost his appeal to voters after disappointing results in May’s local election began grumblings in the parliamentary party – and sparked rumours of a possible leadership contest should Labour lose another seat in the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election.
Speaking ahead of the show’s broadcast at 9.30pm on ITV tonight, Morgan has claimed: “This is the interview that shows the real him and it is one of the most searingly honest and intensely emotional interviews I've ever done.
“You are left with a real sense of a man who comes from humble beginnings who has worked extremely hard and has had to overcome terrible adversity and a string of family tragedies, all of which have shaped him into the person he is today.”
Here are five things you might not know about Sir Keir Starmer.
Starmer the ‘party animal’?
Starmer’s interview with Morgan hints that the Labour leader might have been something of a “party animal” in his youth, although he kept tight-lipped about the details of his university days.
Indeed, Morgan was so keen to get to the bottom of the partying rumours he asked Starmer if he’d taken drugs no less than 14 times – although such an interrogation proved to be useless with the seasoned lawyer, who rebuffed the question each time.
“Have you ever dabbled in anything stronger than alcohol?” Morgan asks Starmer, to which the Labour leader enigmatically replies: “We worked hard and played hard.”
When asked to elaborate, Starmer replies: “I haven't said no.”
Ahead of the interview, Morgan shared photos of Starmer as a teenager on Twitter, sporting a New Romantic “mop-top” and heavy eyeliner. The 1980s shots are “a world away from the slick suits and immaculately groomed hair most would associate him with today”, writes the Daily Mail.
His unusual name causes him trouble
During an appearance on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs last year, Starmer described his parents as “Labour through and through”, although not the type to hold political discussions around the dinner table.
But the pair’s knowledge of Labour history seems to have been sharp, with Starmer, the party’s 19th parliamentary leader, named after its first: Keir Hardie, a man who rose from humble beginnings to lead the party from 1906 to 1908.
But he wasn’t always so fond of the name, telling The Guardian in a 2009 profile that it sometimes led to playground teasing: “When I was at school, at about 13, I thought, why couldn't they have called me Dave or Pete?”, he said.
And his critics seem unafraid to subject his name to further mockery, with many Starmer sceptics taking to calling the Labour leader “Keith” on social media platforms.
Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of the far-left blog The Canary, wrote that “the Left rebranded Keir as ‘Keith’ to dissociate him from the Labour legend he’s named after”, although others believe the origin of the name has a far simpler explanation: it’s a common autocorrect suggestion, sometimes left for comic effect.
He’s lost both his parents
Some of the most emotional parts of tonight’s interview come as Starmer discusses his relationship with his parents, frequently complicated by his mother’s lifelong illness.
Holding back tears at several points during the interview, Starmer tells Morgan that while he was “extraordinarily close” to his mother, who suffered from Still’s disease for 50 years, he had a more difficult relationship with his father, whose tireless devotion to his ill wife was often at the expense of his relationship to his children.
“His whole life was devoted to her and her health and what she needed and what she wanted. She was his whole life. That devotion, that sense of duty, is very, very powerful. It was a lifelong duty and when she died it broke him,” he tells Morgan.
Starmer’s mother never saw her son elected, dying just weeks before he became MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. His father became a recluse after his mother’s death and died in 2018.
He’s a keen footballer
Starmer is a keen footballer and is still frequently pictured playing amateur five- and seven-a-side matches close to his home in north London, often sporting a Donegal Gaelic football shirt – although, locally, he supports Arsenal.
“Unless I'm irreparably injured, I intend to do it for as long as I possibly can,” he told The Guardian in a 2009 profile, while still in his role as director of public prosecutions.
“I used to be FA-registered, it was competitive stuff, but these are friendlies, eight-a-side and five-a-side,” he said.
He’s a committed vegetarian… or is he?
Starmer had professed to be a vegetarian for several years, last year telling Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he gave up meat as “a matter of principle years ago on the basis that eating meat wasn't the right thing for the body and the planet”.
In the same interview, however, he admitted to missing “almost everything” – particularly bacon sandwiches and chicken curry – which may go some way to explain why he was pictured tucking into fish and chips while out on the campaign trail in Hartlepool earlier this year.