Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC (born 2 September 1962) is a British politician and barrister who has served as the 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. He was Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013.[1]

Sir Keir Starmer

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Assumed office
6 October 2016
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byEmily Thornberry
Director of Public Prosecutions
In office
1 November 2008  1 November 2013
Preceded byKen Macdonald
Succeeded byAlison Saunders
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras
In office
8 May 2015  6 November 2019
Preceded byFrank Dobson
Succeeded byElection in progress
Majority30,509 (51.7%)
Personal details
Born (1962-09-02) 2 September 1962 (age 57)
Southwark, London, England
Political partyLabour
Victoria Alexander (m. 2007)
Alma materUniversity of Leeds (LLB)
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BCL)
WebsiteOfficial website

After qualifying for the bar, he acted exclusively as a defence lawyer specialising in human rights issues.[2] He was appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 2002 and Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 New Year Honours. He was sworn in as a Privy Councillor on 19 July 2017.[3]

Early life

Reigate Grammar School

Born in Southwark,[4] Starmer was the second of four children of Josephine (née Baker), a nurse, and Rod Starmer, a toolmaker.[5] He was named after the founder of the Labour Party Keir Hardie.[6] He passed the 11-plus examination and gained entry to Reigate Grammar School,[6] then a voluntary aided school. He studied law at the University of Leeds and graduated with a first class Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985. He then undertook postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and graduated from the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree in 1986.[7]

Legal career

Starmer became a barrister in 1987. He advised 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.[8] He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002, and was joint head of his chambers, Doughty Street Chambers.

He was a human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Association of Chief Police Officers. He is a member of the Foreign Secretary's Death Penalty Advisory Panel. In 2007, he was named "QC of the Year".[9]

Director of Public Prosecutions

On 25 July 2008, the Attorney General, Patricia Scotland, named Starmer as the next head of the CPS, to take over from Sir Ken Macdonald QC on 1 November 2008.[1] Macdonald (now Lord Macdonald of River Glaven), himself a former defence lawyer, welcomed the appointment. While in office, he was viewed as a Labour supporter.[6]

On 22 July 2010, Starmer announced the controversial 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.[10]

On 3 February 2012, Starmer announced that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP 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.[11] Starmer had previously stated in relation to the case that "[w]here there is sufficient evidence we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians".[12]

In the summer of 2012 Nick Cohen, a journalist, published allegations that Starmer was personally responsible for the continued prosecution of Paul Chambers, an airline passenger who, frustrated at airport delays, had posted a joke about Doncaster Sheffield Airport on Twitter. In the case known as the "Twitter Joke Trial" Chambers had been convicted of sending a message "of a menacing character". The trial and conviction provoked widespread protest by free-speech activists, but the Crown Prosecution Service maintained a long-term opposition to Chambers' appeals. According to Chambers' friends, prosecutors had been willing to stop opposing the appeals, but Starmer had over-ruled his subordinates because he was "trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong". However. the CPS said the decision was out of Starmer's hands as it was a crown court decision.[13]

He left office on 1 November 2013 and was replaced by Alison Saunders.[14][15]

In December 2013, 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.[16] On 28 December, Starmer 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".[17]

Political career

Starmer was selected on 13 December 2014 as 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 stand down.[18] Starmer was elected at the 2015 general election with a majority of 17,048.[19]

He was urged by activists to stand for Leader of the Labour Party in the 2015 leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband,[20] but he ruled out doing so, citing his lack of political experience.[21] During the campaign, Keir Starmer backed Andy Burnham.[22]

Jeremy Corbyn appointed Starmer as a shadow Home Office minister[23] on 18 September 2015. In that role he was responsible for the response to the Investigatory Powers Bill or "Snoopers' Charter", on which Labour abstained. On 27 June 2016 he resigned as shadow minister in protest over the leadership of the Labour party,[24] and supported Owen Smith in the September 2016 Labour Party (UK) leadership election.[25]

Shadow Cabinet

On 6 October 2016, Starmer was appointed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union,[26] replacing Emily Thornberry in this role. Starmer resigned from a consultancy position with the law firm specialising in human rights (Mishcon de Reya LLP) that acted for Gina Miller in bringing legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.[27] Starmer has used his position as Shadow Secretary of State to question the government's "destination" for Britain outside the European Union, as well as calling for the government's Brexit plan to be released. On 6 December 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the government would do this,[28] in what was portrayed as a victory for Starmer.

Starmer has questioned whether the victory for "Leave" in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum was a mandate for a so-called "hard Brexit", which would see the UK leave the European Single Market and not just the Political union itself.[29] He stated that Theresa May together with 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.[30] On 25 September 2018 he announced to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool that, "campaigning [by the party] for a public vote must be an option".[31] His tenure as Shadow Brexit Secretary has made him a popular member of the Labour front bench.[32] One July 2019 poll named him favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn with 68% approval ratings amongst the Labour Grassroots.[33]

Personal life

Starmer married Victoria Alexander, a solicitor, in 2007, and has a son and daughter.[5]

While 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", he does not use the title.[34] He told the Hampstead & Highgate Express, a local newspaper in his constituency that "I've never liked titles" stating that "When I was DPP, everyone called me director and I said, 'Please don't call me director, call me Keir Starmer.' It's a very similar battle now."[35]


Honorary degrees

21 July 2011 University of Essex Doctor of University (D.U.) [40]
16 July 2012 University of Leeds Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [41]
19 November 2013 University of East London Doctor of University (D.U.) [42]
19 December 2013 London School of Economics Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [43][44]
14 July 2014 University of Reading Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [45]
18 November 2014 University of Worcester Doctor of University (D.U.) [46]


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)


  1. Bates, Stephen (31 July 2008). "Profile: Keir Starmer QC". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  2. Gibb, Frances (26 July 2008). "Human rights lawyer Keir Starmer named as new prosecution service chief". The Times. London.
  3. "Business Transacted and Orders Approved at The Privy Council Held by The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 19th July 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  4. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  5. "Starmer, Rt Hon. Sir Keir, (born 2 Sept. 1962), PC 2017; QC 2002; MP (Lab) Holborn and St Pancras, since 2015". Who's Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.43670.
  6. Moss, Stephen (21 September 2009). "Keir Starmer: 'I wouldn't characterise myself as a bleeding heart liberal . . .'". The Guardian. London.
  7. "People of Today". Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  8. "Keir Starmer interview". McSpotlight. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  9. Stephen Bates: "Profile: Keir Starmer QC" (1 August 2008), The Guardian
  10. Dodd, Vikram; Lewis, Paul (22 July 2010). "Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  11. M. Settle, "Huhne forced to resign as points court battle looms", The Daily Herald, (4 February 2012)
  12. Keir Starmer QC, "Letter to the Daily Mail from CPS about the Chris Huhne case", The blog of the Crown Prosecution Service, (23 November 2011)
  13. Nick Cohen (29 July 2012). "'Twitter joke' case only went ahead at insistence of DPP". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  14. Branagh, Ellen (23 July 2013). "Stephen Lawrence barrister Alison Saunders to take over from Keir Starmer as new Director of Public Prosecutions". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  15. "Saunders to replace Starmer at DPP". Liverpool Daily Post. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  16. "Keir Starmer heads Labour's victim treatment review". BBC News. 28 December 2013.
  17. "Keir Starmer: Victims' law a real gear change to justice system". 1 January 2014. Archived from the original on 14 December 2014.
  18. "Keir Starmer to stand for Labour in Holborn and St Pancras". The Guardian. 13 December 2014.
  19. "Holborn & St. Pancras Parliamentary Constituency". BBC. 8 May 2015.
  20. Matthew Weaver (15 May 2015). "Labour activists urge Keir Starmer to stand for party leadership". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  21. Caroline Davies (17 May 2015). "Keir Starmer rules himself out of Labour leadership contest". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  22. Wilkinson, Michael (13 September 2015). "Splits emerge as Jeremy Corbyn finalises Labour's shadow cabinet". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  23. UK Parliament. "Rt Hon Keir Starmer MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  24. ITV News (27 June 2016). "Keir Starmer resigns as shadow home office minister". Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  25. Smith, Mikey; Bloom, Dan (20 July 2016). "Which MPs are nominating Owen Smith in the Labour leadership contest?". Mirror. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  26. "Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Sir Keir Starmer as Shadow Brexit Secretary and the Tories should be worried". 6 October 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  27. Walker, Peter (24 July 2017). "Keir Starmer in talks for role with law firm that represented Gina Miller". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  28. "Labour says MPs are entitled to Brexit plan details". BBC News. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  29. Starmer, Keir (4 December 2016). "Keir Starmer: Labour will fight against hard Brexit and bring country together". LabourList. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  30. Stewart, Heather (26 August 2018). "No-deal Brexit thrusts UK into 'legal vacuum', warns Keir Starmer". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  31. Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary (speaker) (25 September 2018). 'Nobody is ruling out remain as an option': Keir Starmer at Labour's Brexit debate (Television). Guardian News via YouTube. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  32. Leonard, MP Dick. "The left's best hope - Can Keir Starmer save Labour?". The New European. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  33. Wright, Oliver (22 July 2019). "Collapse in Labour members' support for Jeremy Corbyn, poll shows". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  34. Pickard, Jim (17 October 2016). "Keir Starmer: the Brexit opponent making Labour heard on Europe". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  35. Lamden, Tim (27 March 2015). "Keir Starmer: 'My mum's health battles have inspired me'". Hampstead & Highgate Express. London. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  37. "No. 60728". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2013. p. 3.
  38. "The New Year Honours List 2014 – Higher Awards" (PDF). 30 January 2013.
  39. "Keir Starmer - Honorary Fellow". St Edmund Hall. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  40. "University of Essex :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Profile: Keir Starmer QC". Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  41. O'Rourke, Tanya. "Honorary graduates". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  42. Atwal, Kay. "Keir Starmer QC, awarded honorary doctorate by east London university". Newham Recorder. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  43. Bennett, Dan. "LSE Honorary Degrees - Governance and committees - Services and divisions - Staff and students - Home". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  44. Editor, LSE Web. "Keir Starmer QC awarded an LSE Honorary Degree - 12 - 2013 - News archives - News and media - Website archive - Home". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  45. "Leading legal figure awarded Honorary Degree". University of Reading. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2019.