WATCH: Iain Duncan Smith apologises after calling Keir Starmer MP a ‘second rate lawyer’
- Credit: Supplied by Keir Starmer
Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer said he “isn’t bothered at all” about being branded a “second-rate lawyer” after Tory Iain Duncan Smith apologises in the Commons today.
Mr Starmer, a human rights QC and former Director of Public Prosecutions, earlier told the Ham&High that he “wasn’t bothered at all” about the one-time Tory leader’s jibe and wouldn’t dignify it with a response.
Earlier this afternoon, former work and pensions secretary Mr Duncan Smith told the Commons: ‘Can I unreservedly withdraw the allegation I made on Monday – only on the basis that it was clumsy.
“It was not meant about him. It was meant about advice, and I don’t doubt for a moment his capabilities as a lawyer.’
Mr Starmer replied: “I’m grateful for that and I can assure him I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned.”
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On Monday, during a debate on whether Parliament should have a vote on accepting the conditions of the UK’s exit package from the European Union, Mr Starmer clashed with government Brexit secretary David Davis.
Mr Duncan-Smith, a leading Brexiteer who is currently a backbencher, told his Conservative colleague Mr Davis: “May I congratulate him on his statement and may I urge him to resist the temptation of advice from a second-rate lawyer who doesn’t even understand the parliamentary process.”
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His remark caused uproar in the House, although Mr Starmer merely half-smiled alongside his fellow Labour MP and barrister Emily Thornberry, as Twitter users leapt furiously to his defence.
The Tory later got a grilling from Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, who said: “He was probably the star lawyer of his generation! Who are you, a non-lawyer, to describe him as a second-rate lawyer?”
Typical comments on Twitter came from QC Jo Maugham who said: “Iain Duncan Smith: second rate intellect, third rate Tory leader and fourth rate human being.”
Tottenham’s Labour MP David Lammy also took to Twitter to say: “Iain Duncan Smith has absolutely no right whatsoever to call former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer a ‘second rate lawyer’”.
Mr Starmer, a graduate of Leeds and Oxford University, enjoyed a glittering career as a human rights barrister before turning to politics and remains an associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers in Camden.
Mr Duncan Smith has a background in business and had his academic credentials called into question in 2001 when a BBC Newsnight investigation found he had made “misleading” claims on his CV.
His CV and “Who’s Who” entry claimed he had been to the University of Perugia in Italy - but the investigation revealed he had attended a different institution - a languages school - in the same city and hadn’t obtained a degree.
Mr Starmer said he intends to “hold the government fully to account” over the Brexit negotiations, as he and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry today submitted a list of 170 questions on the exit process.
He said: “It’s not about not accepting the result of the Referendum or calling for a second one - it’s about understanding what the terms of the exit package are and what Brexit will mean in practice. That has never been made clear to the British people. The most crucial question is the one on membership of the single market.”