'I can’t pretend I didn’t feel something': Keir Starmer on May's exit

Mark Brown Arts correspondent


Even the Labour shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, felt a twinge as Theresa May announced her resignation. Sort of.

Starmer was a speaker at the Hay literary festival over the weekend and was asked for his reaction to the teary departure of someone with whom he worked closely in his previous non-political job as the nation’s director of public prosecutions.

“I watched that speech,” he said. “And I’ve watched it more than once. As all my colleagues rightly point out, before you start feeling sorry, remind people about Windrush.

“Remind yourself that this was a prime minister who wouldn’t even keep her promise on child refugees currently within Europe.

“That has to be the background. All that said, I can’t pretend that as she broke in that last 20 seconds, that I didn’t feel for her because this was a person broken.”

He contrasted her departure to that of Cameron, who walked away from “a complete mess humming”.

“Whether you agree with her or you don’t, this was a woman broken who had tried to genuinely deliver on what she thought she had to do … I can’t pretend I didn’t feel something.”

Starmer said four Conservative prime ministers had been brought down by Europe but the others will be remembered for other things. “This prime minister has got nothing to be remembered by, nothing else.”

Starmer was elected as an MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. Before that he worked with May as director of public prosecutions when she was home secretary.

May was someone who was always straight with him, who always phoned him to ask whether she could use something he had said. “A lot of politicians didn’t do that. She never double dealt. She said what she would do and she did what she said.”

At the end of his term as DPP in 2013, she invited Starmer to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Westminster to say thank you.

Starmer winced at the memory of the dinner. “It was a difficult 90 minutes. Both of us were pleased to see the hour and a half was up.”