What does Keir Starmer actually believe in?

His refusal to say anything of substance is deeply revealing.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Deputy Editor

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Sir Keir Starmer, former director of public prosecutions and serving shadow Brexit secretary, has consolidated his position as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership race.

Last night, he secured the endorsement of Usdaw, one of the biggest trade unions. Having already secured the support of Unison and another affiliated group, he is the first to make it on to the ballot paper. And there is still a good chance GMB will back him today.

There’s a long way to go, in a contest that is already groaning with tedium, but polls suggest Starmer has reasons to be confident in his chances: the latest YouGov poll has him beating close rival Rebecca Long-Bailey by 63 per cent to 37 per cent.

There’s only one real snag with his campaign so far: no one is quite sure what it is he believes in. Indeed, his campaign has been a committed exercise in triangulation and obfuscation, to the supposed end of bringing the party together.

His leadership team includes people who worked for Jeremy Corbyn as well as those who worked for Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate in the 2015 race.

He is effectively telling both the left and right of his party what they want to hear. At his campaign launch in Manchester a few weeks back, he said: ‘We are not going to trash the last Labour government… nor are we going to trash the last four years.’

His recent op-eds are marvels of meaningless word soup, replete with talk of his ‘values’ with little or no attempt to define them. ‘I have always been motivated by a burning desire to tackle inequality and injustice, to stand up for the powerless against the powerful’, he wrote in the Guardian last week. ‘That’s my socialism.’

Here, the s-word is reduced from a serious, once-central ideology to meaning little more than being a good person – and being on the right side of liberal-progressive causes.

Starmer’s slick leadership videos have tried to posit his career as a barrister – in which he represented striking print workers, environmental activists and others – as proof of his left-wing credentials.

But, as Luke Gittos has argued on spiked, what cases Starmer took while being a jobbing barrister tells us little about his politics or general worldview.

More significant, says Gittos, is Starmer’s tenure as DPP, during which his shift in guidance laid the groundwork for the VIP paedophile panic. He also, incidentally, led a crackdown on benefit cheats, a fact conveniently ignored by his more leftish supporters.

To the extent that a picture of Starmer’s politics has emerged, it is one of a legalist and a technocrat, at most a leftish ‘moderate’. His prime selling point seems to be that he looks like he could be prime minister and he is good on the detail of policy, in a way that Boris Johnson often isn’t.

That such an uninspiring proposition is currently the frontrunner is revealing, in a couple of ways.

First, the Labour membership is clearly not nearly as radical and ideological as centrists and right-wingers would have us believe. That Sir Keir has been able to sort-of claim the mantle of Corbynism, by just paying a bit of lip service to socialism, lays testament to this.

You might say that the Corbynistas are just waking up to a historic defeat and think they now need a more vanilla, centrist leader. But then again, Starmer was named as the most likely to succeed Corbyn in a survey of members in January last year.

Second, the Labour Party is clearly completely out of ideas: having spent much of the past five years having an internal cage match between left and right of the parliamentary party, the two sides have almost collapsed in on each other, which is why Starmer’s empty platitudes about unity are so appealing.

Third, Labour has not really reckoned with the scale of the rebuke it was given by the electorate in December. Labour has lost its old heartlands and more broadly the public’s trust, particularly on the issue of Brexit. And Starmer is not the man to win that trust back.

Indeed, Starmer was among the most passionate supporters of Remain in the shadow cabinet. He pushed the leadership towards reneging on its 2017 commitment to respect the referendum result and instead switch to campaigning for another do-over vote.

The Liberal Democrats were reduced to a rump in the 2015 election, in part because they broke the public’s trust on tuition fees. They have never really recovered from it. And that u-turn pales in comparison with Labour breaking its promise to uphold the vote for Brexit, backed by millions of its own voters.

The idea that steady Starmer, and his eye for detail, are enough to win people back feels like a stretch – not least because he is still calling for a ‘close relationship’ with Brussels that would somewhat undermine the point of Brexit.

At the end of the day, if there’s one thing we can be sure that Starmer believes in, it’s that Brexit is a mad idea that really should have been reversed. For all Starmer’s vague allusions to his ‘values’, there’s nothing progressive about that.

But then again, there’s nothing progressive about the party he is seeking to lead, either.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Marvin Jones

26th January 2020 at 10:41 am

With the type of candidates left for the labour leadership contest, everyone a remain loser who are too ignorant to see and acknowledge why they and how they are in this state, threatened by Jew haters and terrorist lovers who in reality hold all the power, refuse to even mention it was ALL the fault of Corbyn and his manifesto of bribery and blackmail, AND! not a word about how we live prosper under Brexit, then, why are they not declaring themselves as the official remain party that will do everything possible to return to the EU to really make monkeys out of us.

Andy Holt

25th January 2020 at 6:03 am

“I have always been motivated by a burning desire, to tackle inequality and injustice, to stand up for the powerless against the powerful.” There it is, right there, the lie that will always catch you out. As head of DPP he took the decision that there was no case to answer in the matter of the two doctors signing off on the abortions of inconvenient girl children.

Ven Oods

22nd January 2020 at 6:02 pm

“she berated Piers Morgan simply for being a bloke”

Probably the nicest thing he’s been called in ages.

Ven Oods

22nd January 2020 at 6:03 pm

Should have been a reply to Steve Moxon waaay down the page.

Ven Oods

22nd January 2020 at 5:57 pm

“What does Keir Starmer actually believe in?”

Well, given that most politicians we see have egos the size of planets, my guess would be ‘Keir Starmer’.

Jeandarc Breon

22nd January 2020 at 3:29 pm

Most probably time Spiked gave their opinion on Lisa Nandy. Surely, with her undertones of ‘Blue Labour’, she’s the most interesting of the leadership candidates.

David McAdam

22nd January 2020 at 2:54 pm

“I believe…and I believe…I believe, I believe I believe.” Rapturous applause and whoops.

Steve Gray

22nd January 2020 at 1:05 pm

Mr Starmer believes in Father Christmas, fairies, the Loch Ness Monster and the European Union.

Mark Bretherton

22nd January 2020 at 10:57 am

Kier Starmer believes in Kier Starmer.

Willie Penwright

22nd January 2020 at 10:56 am

The great victory of the establishment has been to transform politics from the contending views of opposing interests – classes, if you wish – to superficial discussion on the appearance of candidates, their image, their voice, their clothes, their manners and not a policy in sight.

Stuart Naylor

22nd January 2020 at 9:48 am

The media bias for Starmer is blatantly skewed and its true as all we hear is about bringing together and leading labour with no policy how to.

RLB seems the only one with a detailed and comprehensive plan of how to progress.

Warren Alexander

21st January 2020 at 10:29 pm

Surely, a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath is the perfect person to lead the Labour Party.

Simon David

21st January 2020 at 8:53 pm

“Nobody knowing what he believes in” is actually an essential character trait at this point in the cycle. Labour, frankly, have too many beliefs, most of them of no interest to 90% of the country. They just need some steady competence. Boris will make mistakes – all governments do. Then. Labour can capitalise as all oppositions do. No one really knew what thatcher believed in 1972.

Stephen J

21st January 2020 at 9:10 pm

‘es definitely much closer to a wet rag than Madge ever was.

steve moxon

22nd January 2020 at 4:46 pm

In red wall land they’ll reckon he sounds gay. As the Kier bigot supposes everybody to be homophobic [sic] anyway, then if everybody responds ‘well OK then, have some homophobia back, you PC lunatic wazzock’, and if, thereby, he ends up failing to lead Liebore to government ….. that would be about the only instance of justice over which the ex-DPP has ever presided.

Christopher Tyson

21st January 2020 at 7:53 pm

Even through gritted teeth we have to acknowledge that Blair had something. He could deliver a line, he looked youthful and fresh (nicknamed Bamby) and so on. But more than this New Labour created a movement, Blair was primus inter pares, he had genuine colleagues (competitors) around him, Cook, Brown, Prescot, Blunkett, people who could mobilise their own power bases. He built on the effort of Kinnock and Smith, he had skilled PR Mandelson and Campbell, he had intellectual fire power, all those refugees from the communist part of Great Britain, and Marxism Today and Demos, and the heavyweight intellectual support of Anthony Giddens and others. Not to mentioned the desire in the country for change after close to 20 years of Tory Government. There was a buzz around new pop groups, really irritating to those of us who saw them as phoney and derivative, but hey the kids loved it. So yes New labour had something to sell and people bought it. On the down side it was all smoke and mirrors, and the uncool, provincial, and over thirties were unceremoniously removed from the picture (I know that uncool people don’t see themselves that way and there is a thin line between cool and uncool, but that is not what I’m talking about today). Starmer by contrast doesn’t even look like a politician, indeed he hasn’t been one for very long, seems happier sorting things out in a back room with a few whoevers. Everyone complains about lying and BS, populism and ego, but I’ve never seen a successful politician who didn’t thrive on that sort of thing. Of course when it comes to it, the Labour members will go cold on Starmer, even earnest lefties need a bit of excitement sometimes.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 11:43 pm

As much as for anything he did, people hate Blair for the way he reeled them and done them up like a kipper.

Ven Oods

22nd January 2020 at 6:00 pm

Snake oil salesman par excellence. But he’s done well out of it.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 7:09 pm

He believes that holding an office trumps the rules of fair play and due process in the quelling of his enemies. He would happily jail those who disagree with him.
He believes in political patronage because that is how he landed in his seat.
He is a bawbag.

Feel free to add to the list.

Stephen J

21st January 2020 at 5:16 pm

They say that some people have a “radio face”, I reckon that our fabian friend Keir falls into that category.

What is more, he also has a “newspaper voice”….

…. Not only can I not stand to look at him, I don’t think I could bear hearing his nasal whine emanating from every single news broadcast for seemingly forever, just to watch him then die at the polls in 2030.

Adamsson 66

21st January 2020 at 4:56 pm

Sneer Remainer believes in remain

botalap botalap

21st January 2020 at 4:24 pm

Make $125 per hour with your phone or laptop: http://www.mywork5.com

Billie Watcher

21st January 2020 at 3:35 pm

I’ll tell you what he believes in. Thought control and the tyranny of hate crimes. Horrible man, who laid the groundwork for Alison Saunders to take her grotesque appearance out on men.

steve moxon

21st January 2020 at 3:30 pm

Starmer just believes in hate-mongering towards men.
He believes in never believing the accused, and always believing the accuser — even when it is painfully clear a large proportion of accusations are false.
That’s about it. All we need to know about the appalling bigot.
So he’ll make an excellent job of keeping Liebore out of power …. though not as good as job as supposed anti-Jezza, Jez Philips. STOP PRESS Mz misandry incarnate has dropped out of the Liebore leadership race!
We don’t need to worry, though: they’re not going to plump for Lisa Nandy. It’ll be Starmer or Wrong-Daily.

T Zazoo

21st January 2020 at 6:27 pm

He’s a prosecutor so I don’t doubt his willingness to always believe the accuser. He’s just like Kamala Harris.

In Negative

21st January 2020 at 3:26 pm

“‘I have always been motivated by a burning desire to tackle inequality and injustice, to stand up for the powerless against the powerful’, he wrote in the Guardian last week. ‘That’s my socialism.’ ”

This could just as easily have been Lady Gaga. Uncannily similar.

Neil McCaughan

21st January 2020 at 3:08 pm

Starmer was DPP at the time the Labour Government forbad investigation of Pakistani rape gangs, and insisted on a cover-up. That was not, as is often claimed, because of racial sensitivities, but simply because Labour thought a few thousand violated, drugged or tortured children an acceptable price for that prized postal vote.

The question is – what did Starmer know, and when did he know it? He had to have been complicit, didn’t he?

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 5:51 pm

His leadership campaign team will shield him from any of the questions that you pose.

John Marks

21st January 2020 at 3:06 pm

Labour are stuck between the Devil (Tony B’liar) and the Deep Blue Sea (the ‘Woke’ Cult).
What people want is another Attlee.
I would have thought that’s not a difficult problem for Starmer.
He could start by reading John Bew’s excellent biography of Attlee: “Citizen Clem”.


21st January 2020 at 1:30 pm

Do you support tuition fees or not?

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 5:00 pm

I support tuition fees means tested on all income and wealth, including overseas. And a 15yr residency requirement.

Michael Lynch

21st January 2020 at 1:28 pm

Himself and Brexit unfortunately.

Michael Lynch

21st January 2020 at 1:36 pm

I meant Rejoin of course. Hat that you can’t re-edit your posts!

steven brook

21st January 2020 at 1:01 pm

Blair 3 – all we need.

Dominic Straiton

21st January 2020 at 1:00 pm

Keir Starmer as an “ex” civil servant is Blairism and the managerial, pompous deep state that always thinks it knows best. They have just been routed but just dont know it yet.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 5:03 pm

They see working class conservative voters as naughty, neglected children in need of a bit of attention, and will treat them accordingly.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 5:04 pm

They still think Labour voters in Scotland are just out on loan to The SNP.

Sam Kelly

21st January 2020 at 12:53 pm

Labour are in a downward spiral and as long as they continue with this wokerati bullshit, then long may that descent continue.

Ian Wilson

22nd January 2020 at 5:27 am

Quite, how on earth do the Labour party think they will win back votes with any of these idiot candidates? I just don’t get why Mr Anti-Brexit even stands a chance.

steve moxon

22nd January 2020 at 5:45 pm

And Lisa Nandy has also committed government-forming suicide: she berated Piers Morgan simply for being a bloke, who as such supposedly cannot know anything about prejudice! Just what world do Westminster bubble mites observe? If by some miracle she wins the leadership race, her main home will remain in Wigan.

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