HAVING delivered a barnstorming and insightful conference speech, Sir Keir Starmer is now seen by many as Prime Minister in waiting. With a heavyweight team of talented shadow ministers and a plethora of gifted MPs to call on, it can only be a matter of time before he is summoned by Her Majesty to form a government.
Riding high on a tsunami of approval from critics and admirers alike, he kindly granted TCW Defending Freedom’s political correspondent an all too brief post-conference interview.
We meet in his suite in a Brighton seafront hotel. Sir Keir looks relaxed and enviably tanned; in the flesh he is muscular and taller than you imagine, with swept-back full hair that catches the sun when he runs his manicured hands through it.
He is confident in his own skin and clearly revels in the attention he is getting. I can’t help but notice his polished shoes wear an air of authority and his socks (with Daffy Duck motif) playfully suggest a mischievous personality wanting to escape. His tailored suit oozes power and authority. This is someone going places in the world – and make no mistake, he is a man in a hurry.
TCW: Sir Keir, can I start by saying thank you for . . .
SK: Can I stop you right there and say that there is no need for formality. I am very much a man of the people and although I am Leader of the Opposition, please, simply call me Keir.
TCW: If you don’t mind, I would feel more comfortable addressing you as Sir Keir.
SK: If you must.
(Sir Keir flashes me his winning smile that has won over countless people and transformed the fortunes of the Labour Party.)
TCW: It has been often said that you are ruthlessly forensic – how old were you when you first noticed this ability?
SK (laughing and revealing brilliant white and enviably even teeth): Probably when I was at junior school. I very clearly remember counting gobstoppers when I ordered a quarter from the tuck shop. I once found that I had been short changed – one gobstopper light. From that moment on I felt that society was plagued by social injustice and I had a burning desire to ‘do something’, something that would make the world a better place.
(Sir Keir’s face takes on a wistful appearance, his eyes become moist as he recalls such a harrowing and vivid experience.)
TCW: There has been criticism that the Labour Party is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ and that under your stewardship it has become an outdated and useless talking shop that is now merely a repository for sixth-form gesture politics – how do you respond to these accusations?
(Sitting forward and fixing me with a penetrating gaze he ponders the question momentarily; you can appreciate his forensic lobe coming to the fore.)
SK: Look, that is simply untrue. Labour is a broad church and one that encourages lively and topical debate; we will not shy away from the important issues that impact on people’s lives. Yes, people are concerned about the NHS, yes, people are worried about crime, yes, people are worried about the cost of living, yes, people are concerned about immigration, but let’s be clear here. Time and time again our focus groups show us that trans rights and the voting system for electing a leader trump all these concerns. That is why we as a party are committed to improving and levelling up society. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, we must bite the bullet to get the best of both worlds and must not judge a book by its cover.
TCW: Some say that your conference could be summed up in one word.
TCW: No, cervix.
(Sir Keir rolls his eyes to heaven, clearly exasperated at the mention of this contentious word.)
SK: This is not an issue and the Right-wing media have tried to confect a non-existent story which would reflect badly on our party. I say these simple powerful words: there are things that shouldn’t be said, there are things that should be said, we are where we are, and we were where we were. Going forward we will be where we are going but mindful of where we have come from. Let that be an end to this.
TCW: There has been criticism of your deputy’s intemperate abuse of the Conservatives and labelling them scum. How do you respond to that criticism?
SK: Healthy debate is part of our culture and I for one will not stand in the way of it. Yes, passion boils over occasionally, some things are said in the heat of the moment that shouldn’t be said, but on this point, I think Angela was correct. When I look at our talent pool, and here I am thinking of not just Angela, but Rachel, Diane, David, Anneliese and Lisa etc, I am immensely proud of the l’embarras du choix that we can call on to help the British people when the time comes. Sometimes beating around the bush and biting off more than you can chew can leave you between a rock and a hard place.
TCW: Can you provide further details of how you plan to finance your ambitious policies?
SK: Absolutely, here I want to be unambiguous. Tax is in itself a means to an end, a burden is a burden and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, never forget ABBA’s prophetic yet haunting counsel, ‘Money, money, money’ or Sally Bowles’s warning to us all that ‘money makes the world go around’, all is fair in love and war and Labour is justifiably committed to making those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share. No one will be left behind under a Labour administration.
TCW: You are a keen cinema and theatre goer; with the release of the new 007 movie do you have any observations on the film genre?
(Sir Keir becomes positively animated, he throws back his head and laughs uproariously.)
SK: The name’s Starmer, Sir Keir Starmer. I was never a huge fan of Bond movies if I am honest, but I suppose I would have to say that Connery was my favourite. Brooding and shot through with a hint of menace and danger – not unlike someone not a million miles from here! To be serious, though, the type of masculine, hard-drinking, womanising and violent hero is really something of a dinosaur in the modern day and for me I would be delighted to see a person with a vagina take over as Bond.
(Quickly realising that this opinion might be seen as sexist and once again revealing his keen political antennae and adroitness under pressure, he swiftly goes on.)
SK: But wouldn’t it also be great to see a person with a penis taking on the role of Bridget Jones?
TCW: Sir Keir, thank you for sparing us so much time.
(He gets up and shakes my hand, turns to leave but abruptly stops and fixes me with that Clinton-like smile.)
SK: You know the new Bond film could be called On Her Majesty’s Secret Cervix?
(He flashes me his dazzling smile one last time and gives a conspiratorial wink before striding out of the room.)