Sir Keir Starmer: ‘People make assumptions about me which turn out to be wrong’

Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

As the former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer is the most high-profile figure on the shortlist of Labour candidates hoping to replace Frank Dobson.

It is widely held that the five-way contest on Saturday will be decided in a head-to-head between Sir Keir and formidable Camden Council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward.

Having helped to establish leading human rights law firm Doughty Street Chambers, based in Holborn, and headed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for five years, Sir Keir is not short of plaudits.

But it is not something which sits comfortably with the 52-year-old.

“I want to get on with the real job of winning the next election, he says. “I don’t find the self-promotion of this process a comfortable experience.”

In January, the barrister was awarded a knighthood as part of the New Year Honours for services to law and criminal justice, an establishment accolade which attracts some frustrating preconceptions.

Sir Keir explains: “People do make assumptions which turn out to be wrong about me. They don’t assume I was a toolmaker’s son and my mother was a nurse. That comes as a surprise.”

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Having grown up on the Kent-Surrey border in Oxted, he attended Reigate Grammar School, then a state school, before studying law at the University of Leeds and later the University of Oxford.

Married with two young children, Sir Keir has lived in Kentish Town for 15 years and is ready to enter politics to address some of the problems he encountered during his law career.

“The 2015 election is going to be a defining election,” he says. “I’ve just presided over a public service that suffered 30 per cent cuts and I know if the Tories get in next year there is going to be far worse cuts, which will strip away the social contract we’ve had for decades.

“I’ve always been driven by social justice, equality and human rights.”