Why Keir Starmer’s hard to pin down: A Trotskyist who’s capitalists’ delight

Keir Starmer becoming the Prime Minister of the UK was inevitable, if his ex-partner, Philipa Kauffman, is to be believed. “If you’d told me back then that Keir would be prime minister, it wouldn’t have surprised me one little bit. One, he is very capable. Two, he is utterly driven. Three, his values and principles are so important,” Kauffman says in Starmer’s biography by Tom Baldwin.

Capable, utterly driven and principled. Keir Starmer’s win is no surprise for his ex-partner.

The biography was released in February, when it had become pretty evident that the Starmer-led Labour Party wasn’t just on course to win the general election, but to sweep it.

On Friday, the Labour Party leader emerged victorious in the July 4 election, enabling Labour to form the government in the UK after 14 years. It was Starmer who steered Labour to victory by wooing and consolidating voter anger against the Conservatives.

“Starmer is peculiarly hard to pin down, especially for people who work in politics, because he resists being fitted into the clean lines within which politicians usually project themselves,” wrote his biographer.

It is really “hard to pin down” who Starmer is. In Starmer’s personality, we see many shades, even paradoxes.

He was the editor of Trotsky magazine in the UK who put “wealth creation” as an important agenda of the Labour Party in this election.

He is the most working-class leader of the Labour Party Britain has seen for years. But he is ‘Sir’, having been knighted by the British crown. He is a private man who has chosen public life to be in the political limelight.

Starmer is an anti-monarchist, who will now meet the King once a week. These paradoxes show his evolution as a political leader and a person over time. He adapts and is quick to understand and respond.

He was a human rights lawyer who became the adviser to the Northern Irish Policing Board, where he helped police officers justify their use of guns and plastic bullets.


Starmer is going to be the most working-class PM of the generation in the UK. He has defeated a man — Rishi Sunak — who some say was even richer than the royals.

Born to a toolmaker and a nurse, Starmer never had to think of or mention his origins till he entered politics.

“‘My dad was a toolmaker and my mum was a nurse,’ before adding – in words that these days might induce some form of aneurysm among those who have followed his interviews and speeches since – ‘not everybody knows that and that’s because I don’t say it very often,” wrote his biographer.

Starmer also spoke about unpaid bills and the phone being cut off. They could not eat pasta or travel abroad. His father felt “very disrespected” working as a factory worker, revealed Starmer.

But Starmer moved beyond his circumstances and was the first in the family to attend University of Leeds, and then do a year at Oxford.

Now, he is helping families get their first mortgage as his family’s humble home “was everything to my family — it gave us stability, and I believe every family deserves the same”.

He would go on to be a lawyer.


He was a human rights lawyer at the famous Doughty Street Chambers. He fought death penalty cases for Commonwealth countries and was even part of a legal team that got the death sentences of 417 people removed.

He would never mention his working-class roots to win a case. In fact, he was never a “jury’s lawyer”. He built his case with facts. His style was considered “forensic” even when he represented the opposition in the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

He was a problem solver, not a poser.

“He’ll walk around a problem, look at it from every angle, almost touch and feel it before working out what to do. If we can’t abolish the death penalty altogether, he’ll find ways to engage with the prosecutors in that country or the government. There’s no point in telling these countries that capital punishment is barbaric just to get some cheap applause – where does that get you?”

He had pragmatic solutions to radical problems and was more interested in getting solutions than posturing, wrote his biographer.

This side of his personality is what will be of great use in 10 Downing Street. A London-based lawyer who worked with him said he was always “looking 10 miles down the road.”

He became the top prosecutor of the country.

After being a human rights lawyer for decades, Starmer became in-charge of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2008 and was responsible for criminal prosecutions in England and Wales.

He saw the first British prosecution of al-Qaeda terrorists. He also came under scrutiny after he was, what some considered, harsh to rioters in London after the police shot dead a black man in 2011, Mark Duggan.

Finally, in 2014, Starmer was knighted and he became, ‘Sir Keir’. But as Kauffman said, law was not enough for him.


Starmer finally entered electoral politics at the age of 52.

In 2015, he became the MP for the London district of Holborn and St Pancras in 2015, and was the “shadow minister” and dealt with Labour’s position on Brexit.

Starmer had been against leaving the European Union but many Labour voters were in favour of it. Finally, the party could not reach a conclusion and asked for a second referendum.

This, along with other factors, led to the defeat of the Labour Party in 2019.

After the elections, Starmer became the party leader. He worked relentlessly and his fluidity as a leader made him cater to many. While several people say they do not know what he stands for, in reality, he stands for a few things.

“What Keir has done is taken all the left out of the Labour Party,” billionaire John Caudwell, told the BBC. “He’s come out with a brilliant set of values and principles and ways of growing Britain in complete alignment with my views as a commercial capitalist.”

Another strength of Starmer is that he hasn’t been tied down to any of the party’s factions and adapts to the situation.

“One of Keir’s greatest strengths is that he’s never been from or beholden to a particular faction of the Labour Party. I think that’s because – unlike almost every previous Labour leader – he didn’t spend his life in the Labour Party, and it isn’t his whole life, even now. It’s why he could win a leadership contest from the soft left, but now lead it from the centre-right,” said Chris Ward, one of his principal advisers until 2021.

As for what he stands for?

“He believes in pragmatism, in developing policy by solving problems, not through grand theory. And he doesn’t come to the table with ideological presuppositions,” said Josh Simons, who headed the think tank, Labour Together.

As for immigration, Starmer has stated that they will use the money currently being used to send the immigrants to Rwanda to establish a new Border Security Command to tackle gangs operating via small boats across the border and other purposes.

He also stands for supporting his British Indian voters as he visited the Swaminarayan Temple in Kingsbury on June 28 to reiterate his commitment to building a “strategic partnership with India”.

“If we’re elected next week, we will strive to govern in the spirit of sewa to serve you and a world in need,” said Starmer, reiterating his promise of “absolutely no place for Hinduphobia in Britain”.

Though it is hard to pond down the real Starmer, the advantage of this flexibility of personality is that the new British Prime Minister can adapt to fast-changing situations and respond to them fast.

Published By:

India Today Web Desk

Published On:

Jul 6, 2024

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