Why is Keir Starmer a Sir? How the Labour leader got his knighthood

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Amid the turmoil in the Conservative Party, Sir Keir Starmer and the opposition are aiming for a secure majority in the next general election.

The Labour leader has headed the party since April 2020, following its defeat under Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 general election, and has been trying to reunify it ever since. The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also had to move the party on from accusations of anti-Semitism and its divisions on Brexit.

The leader of the Opposition – unusually for a Labour leader – is also a knight – here’s how he came to have this honour.

What are the qualifications for a knighthood?

A knighthood is an honour awarded by the monarch for exceptional national service. The female equivalent, a damehood, holds the same official title: Grand Cross of the British Empire.

Among the hierarchy of honours, there are also CBE, or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, OBE, or Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and MBE, or Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Nominations can be made online or by email and the honours committee decide which specific honour will be awarded.

Why did Keir Starmer get a knighthood?

Before his political career, Starmer practised as a human rights defence lawyer. In 2002, he became queen’s counsel and co-head of Doughty Street Chambers.

Sir Keir Starmer (he rarely uses the title) was awarded his knighthood in 2014 for his work heading the CPS as Director of Public Prosecutions – a tradition for those in this role. His services for “law and criminal justice” were cited as reasons for the honour.

He held the role from 2008 to 2013, while notorious cases such as trials for the murder of Stephen Lawrence were under way.

Starmer, 59, this year said: “29 years ago, Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack.

“I’m proud to have helped bring his killers to justice – we must do more to rid racism from our society.”

In 2015 he earned his seat in Parliament as MP for Holborn and St Pancras and followed with his bid for Labour leadership, winning 56 per cent of the vote in the first round.

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