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Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer British politician and barrister

British politician and barrister
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British politician and barrister
Is Lawyer Judge Barrister Politician
From United Kingdom
Type Law Politics
Gender male
Birth 2 September 1962, Southwark, United Kingdom
Age: 57 years
Star sign VirgoVirgo
Politics Labour Party
The details

Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP (born 2 September 1962) is a British politician and barrister who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015. A member of the Labour Party, he is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, having been appointed to the Shadow Cabinet by Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. He is a candidate for Leader of the Labour Party in the 2020 leadership election.

After qualifying for the bar, he acted exclusively as a defence lawyer specialising in human rights issues and was appointed as a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 2002. In 2008, he became Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), holding the role until 2013.

Elected to the House of Commons in the 2015 general election, Corbyn appointed Starmer as Shadow Minister of State for Immigration, a role from which Starmer resigned in 2016 in protest at Corbyn's leadership, along with numerous other Labour MPs. In the 2014 New Year Honours he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and was sworn in as a Privy Councillor in 2017.

Early life and education

Keir Starmer was born in Southwark, London, on 2 September 1962. He was the second of four children of Josephine (née Baker), a nurse, and Rodney Starmer, a toolmaker. Keir was named after the first Labour Party MP, Keir Hardie. He passed the 11-plus examination and gained entry to Reigate Grammar School, then a voluntary aided state school, although it converted to an independent fee-paying grammar school in 1976 while he was there. He studied law at the University of Leeds, graduating with a first class Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985. He then undertook postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, graduating from the University of Oxford as a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) in 1986.

Legal career

Starmer became a barrister in 1987, at the Middle Temple, later becoming a bencher there in 2009. He has also been called to the bar in several Caribbean countries. Primarily working on human rights issues, he notably worked for Helen Steel and David Morris in the McLibel case, which went to court in 1997. In an interview, he described the case as "very much a David and Goliath", and said that "there's an extremely good legal team acting for McDonalds at great expense and Dave and Helen have had to act for themselves with me as a sort of free back up whenever possible." He was also interviewed for McLibel, the documentary about the case directed by Franny Armstrong and Ken Loach.

He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002, the same year he became joint head of Doughty Street Chambers. Starmer also 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 Office Death Penalty Advisory Panel from 2002 to 2008. In 2007, he was named "QC of the Year" by the UK legal directory.

Director of Public Prosecutions

In July 2008, Attorney General Patricia Scotland named Starmer as the new Head of the Crown Prosecution Service 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.

In February 2009, Starmer approved a decision not to prosecute any police over the controversial shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

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 Mr Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed, Starmer announced that Harwood would be prosecuted for manslaughter. The officer was acquitted in July 2012, but dismissed from the police that September.

In February 2012, Starmer announced that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and his former wife, Vicky Pryce, would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Huhne became the first Cabinet Minister in British 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".

In the summer of 2012, journalist Nick Cohen published allegations that Starmer was personally responsible for allowing to proceed the prosecution of Paul Chamber in what became known as the "Twitter Joke Trial". Chamber's 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.

Starmer left office in November 2013, and was replaced by Alison Saunders. Later that month, the Labour Party announced that Starmer would lead an enquiry into changing the law to give further protection to victims in cases of rape and child abuse. On 28 December, he said to BBC News: "Well, I'm back in private practice; I'm rather enjoying having some free time, and I'm considering a number of options".

Political career

Starmer was selected in December 2014 to be the Labour Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, following the decision of the sitting MP Frank Dobson to retire. Starmer was elected at the 2015 general election with a majority of 17,048.

He was urged by a number of activists to stand to be leader of the Labour Party in the 2015 leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband, but he ruled this out, citing his relative lack of political experience. During the campaign, Keir Starmer supported Andy Burnham, who finished second to Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn appointed Starmer as a shadow Home Office minister, a role from which Starmer resigned in 2016 in protest at Corbyn's leadership, along with numerous other Labour MPs.

Shadow Brexit secretary

On 6 October 2016, Starmer accepted appointment as shadow Brexit secretary, replacing Emily Thornberry in this role. On taking up the role, Starmer resigned from a consultancy position with the law firm specialising in human rights, Mishcon de Reya LLP, that had acted for Gina Miller in bringing legal proceedings against the Government.

In his role as shadow Brexit secretary, Starmer questioned the Government's "destination" for the UK outside of the European Union, as well as calling for Brexit plans to be made public. On 6 December 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the publication of such plans, in what some considered a victory for Starmer. Starmer has argued that the Government would be subject to a race against time to pass a large number of new laws, or risk an "unsustainable legal vacuum", if Britain left the EU without a deal. On 25 September 2018, he declared to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool that "campaigning [by the party] for a public vote must be an option".

Starmer has called for a reform to the EU free movement rules following Brexit and for a "fundamental rethink of immigration rules from start to finish". In his first interview after being appointed to the Shadow Cabinet, Starmer argued that immigration was too high and called for it to be reduced as Britain leaves the EU, despite Corbyn ruling out any cap. Starmer told Politico in April 2016 that negotiations with the EU should start on the understanding that there must be "some change" to freedom of movement rules, given that remaining in the EU single market is no longer a reality.

In May 2017, Starmer said that "free movement has to go", but that it was important to retain "free movement of labour", given the importance of immigration for the UK's economy.

2020 leadership election

Following Labour's heavy defeat in the 2019 general election, 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 multiple endorsements from MPs as well as from the trade union Unison.

Personal life

Starmer married Victoria Alexander, a solicitor, in 2007, and has a son and daughter. He was awarded a knighthood in 2014 for "services to law and criminal justice" and is therefore entitled to be known as "Sir Keir Starmer". Although he accepted the knighthood, he prefers not to be called Sir.


Order of the Bath knight commander civil division star (United Kingdom after 1950) - Tallinn Museum of Orders.jpg
  • Appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 2002.
  • Bar Council's Sydney Elland Goldsmith Award in 2005, for his outstanding contribution to pro bono work in challenging the death penalty.
  • Appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours for "services to law and criminal justice".
  • Sworn of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 19 July 2017.
  • Elected Honorary Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford in 2019.

Honorary degrees

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.)


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

  • Justice in error, ed. by Clive Walker and Keir Starmer (London: Blackstone, 1993), ISBN 1-85431-234-0
  • Francesca Klug, Keir Starmer and Stuart Weir, The three pillars of liberty: political rights and freedoms in the United Kingdom (London: Routledge, 1996), ISBN 0-415-09641-3
  • Conor Foley and Keir Starmer, Signing up for human rights: the United Kingdom and international standards (London: Amnesty International United Kingdom, 1998), ISBN 1-873328-30-3
  • Miscarriages of justice: a review of justice in error, ed. by Clive Walker and Keir Starmer (London: Blackstone, 1999), ISBN 1-85431-687-7
  • Keir Starmer, European human rights law: the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights (London: Legal Action Group, 1999), ISBN 0-905099-77-X
  • Keir Starmer, Michelle Strange, and Quincy Whitaker, with Anthony Jennings and Tim Owen, Criminal justice, police powers and human rights (London: Blackstone, 2001), ISBN 1-84174-138-8
  • Keir Starmer with Iain Byrne, Blackstone's human rights digest (London: Blackstone, 2001), ISBN 1-84174-153-1
  • Keir Starmer and Jane Gordon, A report on the policing of the Ardoyne parades 12 July 2004 (Belfast: Northern Ireland Policing Board, 2004)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 29 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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