Who is Keir Starmer? The man tipped as next PM vows to 'rebuild Britain'

Everything you need to know about the man who, on current poll ratings, is set to be the UK’s next prime minister

Keir Starmer will be seeking election as the UK's next prime minister this year. (Getty, ITV, Alamy)
Keir Starmer will be seeking election as the UK's next prime minister this year. (Getty, ITV, Alamy)

The son of a toolmaker and the first of his family to go to university, Sir Keir Starmer is the most working class Labour Party leader in a generation.

Yet when focus groups are asked what they think his favourite drink is, they guess that he’s partial to a gin and tonic rather than a pint down the local boozer. Many also assume his title is hereditary.

So what do you really need to know about the man who, on current poll ratings, is set to be the UK’s next prime minister?

Keir Starmer was born in Southwark, south London, in 1962, as the second of four children. His parents were Labour Party members and named him after Keir Hardie, the party’s first leader in parliament.

The family moved out of the capital and he grew up in Hurst Green, a village just outside the small Surrey town of Oxted. He was active in youth politics from his teenage years but was also a skilled musician, taking music lessons alongside Norman Cook, who later became better known as a member of The Housemartins and the DJ Fatboy Slim.

Starmer played the flute, piano, violin and recorder and was a junior exhibitioner at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Starmer is married to Victoria, a former solicitor who later retrained in occupational health and now works for the NHS. The pair met through their work in the law in the early 2000s and married in Essex in 2007.

She was first seen accompanying her husband when the couple were filmed clapping for carers during the pandemic in 2020 outside their home in Camden. They have two children, a son and daughter, but both are kept out of the public eye.

Victoria's father was Jewish and originally came from Poland, while her mother converted when they got married. Starmer has said in a previous interview that "my wife in particular wants our children to know the faith of her family" and that they "observe some of the practices, for example Friday night prayers".


Keir Starmer with parents Rodney and Josephine at his graduation
Keir Starmer with parents, Rodney and Josephine, at his graduation. (Twitter/Keir Starmer)

The Labour leader's father, Rodney Starmer, worked as a toolmaker in a factory, and his mother Josephine Starmer (née Baker), was a nurse.

His father worked long, 14-hour days but spent his time outside work caring for Josephine, who was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Still’s disease. She required two hip and knee replacements twice in her lifetime and struggled with arthritic pain.

As a young man Starmer also helped care for his mother, which he has said led to him being more emotionally reserved. His sister, Katy, recalled: “He’s had to be a grown-up all his life. I’ve always been quite open about my feelings – Keir is good at most things, but not that.” Josephine Starmer died in 2015, and his father three years later.

Starmer passed the 11-plus examination, and attended Reigate Grammar School from age 11. While he was at the school it became an independent fee-paying institution, but as an existing student he was exempt from fees, and his tuition in the sixth form was covered by a bursary.

After school he studied law at the University of Leeds, this first in his family to attend university, graduating with a first class degree in 1985. He undertook postgraduate law studied at the University of Oxford, where he served as editor of a radical magazine, Socialist Alternatives.

A photograph of a younger Starmer as shown on ITV's Piers Morgan's Life Stories in 2021. (ITV)
A photograph of a younger Starmer as shown on ITV's Piers Morgan's Life Stories in 2021. (ITV)

Stamer was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 2014 in recognition of his work in the legal profession, culminating in a five-year term as Director of Public Prosecutions.

He first became a barrister in 1987 at the Middle Temple, later joining Doughty Street Chambers and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2002, aged just 39. In 2008 he was appointed head of the Crown Prosecution Service and DPP.

During his tenure he chose to prosecute three Labour MPs and a Conservative in the wake of the parliamentary expenses scandal, and was responsible for prosecuting former MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce for perverting the course of justice after Pryce claimed responsibility for her former husband’s speeding offence.

The Labour leader has said that, if elected, his government would “get the NHS working around the clock and pay staff properly to do it”.

The remark followed a commitment to provide £1.1bn in funding for the health service to cut waiting lists by paying doctors and nurses to carry out additional out-of-hours care, which would be funded by axing tax breaks for wealthy “non-doms” who hoard money overseas. He added: “The Conservative Party that brought our NHS to its knees will put it in the ground. We have to get it back on its feet.”

Starmer describes the NHS as “the crowdfunded solution for all of us”, reinforcing his commitment to healthcare being free at the point of use, but says reform is inevitable or the health service would “remain on life support”. He has pledged to integrate up-to-date technology into every part of the NHS including using artificial intelligence to diagnose disease earlier and more accurately.

He supported the doctors strikes, telling ministers: “Don’t break junior doctors, talk to them. Get in the room [and] sort it out.”

Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer walks with his wife, Lady Victoria Starmer, on his way to deliver his Leaders speech at the Labour Party Conference.
Starmer with his wife, Lady Victoria Starmer, at the Labour Party Conference in October 2023. (Alamy)

The government has “lost control of borders”, according to Labour. Starmer has said a Labour government would set up a new policy unit to tackle illegal migration and has suggested that a returns agreement for asylum seekers could be negotiated with the European Union to solve the small boats crisis.

He described the government’s thwarted Rwanda plan, which would see illegal migrants deported to the African nation but has to be put into practice due to legal blocks, as a “gimmick” and a “farce” and has promised to reverse it.

Starmer has sought to keep Rishi Sunak’s handling of the cost of living crisis in the minds of voters by claiming that “his fingerprints are all over their struggling household budgets”. In a letter to his shadow cabinet, leaked to The Guardian, he wrote: “Rishi Sunak is the chief architect of choices prioritising the wealthiest and of the government’s failure to get a grip of the economy and get growth going.”

He has said he would prioritise tackling inflation, blaming it for putting up prices and eroding household savings, but has pledged to “take the difficult and responsible decisions” to bring it down.

Mr Keir Starmer QC the Director of public prosecution at the CPS (Crown Prosecution service) HQ in central London, making a statement about MP's who face charges over their expenses claims, this morning.   (Photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Starmer pictured in 2010, when he was director of public prosecution at the CPS, making a statement about MPs who face charges over their expenses claims. (Getty)

Labour has dropped its early promise to scrap charitable status for private schools, but has committed to levying a 20% VAT rate on school fees removing their “unfair tax break”. The money raised, he said, will be used to address the “appalling state” of the school system for all children.

“It’s not an attack on private schools. It’s just saying an exemption you have had is going to go,” he warned private schools who have been critical of the plan – reminding them they are not obliged to pass that tax on to parents in the form of increased fees.

When he was first Labour leader, Starmer proposed a “root and branch reform of the centre of government… rooting out unearned privilege and addressing unaccountable power”.

But his promise to scrap the House of Lords within the first four years of a new parliament - a controversial move that caused a split among his party’s grandees, has been abandoned.

Starmer still backs plans for a second chamber “electoral legitimacy”, but as his party nears government he has stepped away from the most radical form of that pledge. He is now reportedly committed to cutting the number of hereditary peers, reducing the size of the chamber and introducing a new appointments process.