Who is Keir Starmer and how did he go from human rights law to Number 10?

on Jul 7, 2024
  • Labour's Keir Starmer wins a landslide victory, ending 14 years of Conservative rule.
  • Starmer's journey: from Southwark to the top of British politics.
  • Labour's win could herald significant changes for the UK's future.

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“We did it!” exclaimed Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer after it was revealed that his party claimed a landslide victory in the United Kingdom’s general election. “Change begins now,” he added.

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It’s been a long wait of 14 years to snatch the government from the Tories’ hands, and an even longer journey for the former barrister from a London borough to the very top of British and international politics.

Early life and education

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Born in 1962 in the Southwark district of London to a nurse mother and a toolmaker father, Keir Starmer grew up in Surrey. His childhood was marked by a blend of modest beginnings and ambitious dreams.

He attended a grammar school that transitioned from state-funded to fee-paying, reflecting the mixed socioeconomic environment he navigated.

An aspiring young musician, Starmer played the flute, piano, recorder, and violin, showcasing an early dedication to discipline and practice.

In 1985, Starmer graduated from the University of Leeds with first-class honors and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, followed by a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) from St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.

These academic achievements laid a solid foundation for his future legal and political career.

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Starmer’s involvement in politics began in his teenage years. His parents were Labour supporters, and he was named after the party’s first parliamentary leader, Keir Hardie. At 16, he joined Labour’s youth wing, Young Socialists.

During his university years, he edited the Socialist Alternatives, a magazine with Trotskyist tendencies. However, his political aspirations took a backseat as he pursued a career in law.

As a barrister, Starmer built a stellar career in human rights law, notably on the subject of the death penalty. His expertise and dedication earned him the title of Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 2002.

In July 2008, he was appointed head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions, roles he held until 2013. His contributions to law were recognized with a knighthood, making him “Sir” Keir Starmer.

Political ascent: From MP to Labour leader

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Despite his legal career, Starmer remained a committed member of the Labour Party. He stood for election for the first time in 2015, becoming the Member of Parliament (MP) for Holborn and St. Pancras.

He retained his seat in subsequent elections in 2017, 2019, and 2024. As a backbencher, Starmer supported the campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, though the effort ultimately failed.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 2015 general election, then-leader Ed Miliband resigned. Although some activists urged Starmer to run for leader, he declined, citing a lack of experience.

Instead, he joined Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, first leading the immigration department and then overseeing Brexit.

Starmer’s calls for a second Brexit referendum were unsuccessful, but he strengthened his position within the party, eventually becoming its leader in 2020 with support from influential figures like former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Capitalizing on Tory missteps

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The last four years under Conservative rule saw the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

These crises, coupled with economic decline and rising inflation, eroded public trust in the Tory government, which saw three leadership changes during this period.

Starmer initially claimed he would not “score any political points” from these crises. However, the Labour Party’s consistent message of change and stability resonated with voters.

As the public’s faith in the Conservative Party’s ability to manage the crises waned, Labour’s appeal grew. The result was a resounding victory: Labour won 412 seats in the House of Commons, while the Tories managed only 121.

Starmer’s vision from Number 10

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With Labour’s landslide victory, Starmer is now poised to lead the UK through a period of significant transformation. His journey from a modest upbringing to the pinnacle of British politics exemplifies resilience, dedication, and a commitment to public service.

As Prime Minister, Starmer faces the monumental task of addressing the myriad challenges facing the nation, from economic recovery to international relations.

Starmer’s declaration, “Change begins now,” encapsulates his vision for a new era in British politics.

The coming months will test his ability to translate this vision into tangible results, but his track record suggests he is more than capable of rising to the occasion.

GBP UK Political