Sir Keir Starmer: Five things we learned from Piers Morgan interview

By Jennifer Scott
BBC News

Published
media captionSir Keir Starmer says the death of his mother "broke" his father

Sir Keir Starmer took over the leadership of the Labour Party in April 2020 - weeks after the Covid pandemic had taken hold in the UK.

Most of his appearances since then have been limited to Zoom or the dispatch box in the House of Commons, with the odd - and sometimes fraught - campaign visit.

On ITV's Piers Morgan's Life Stories on Tuesday, he made one of his first appearances in front of a live studio audience.

But after jokes about Sir Keir's daily moisturising routine, the revelation his middle name was Rodney, and a claim about "always brimming with manly passion" - especially when playing football on a Sunday - what did we really learn about the man who wants to get Labour into Downing Street after 11 years?

1) The death of Sir Keir's mother

The Labour leader has often spoken of his mother, Josephine Starmer, and her painful experiences living with Still's Disease.

In a tearful exchange with Morgan, Sir Keir described the disease as "attacking your joints", adding: "For some people it comes and goes, for mum it came and it came and it came again."

He spoke of his father, Rod Starmer, being "totally devoted" to her and calling him from the hospital to say she wasn't going to make it - then asking him to tell his siblings.

image copyrightPiers Morgan's Life Stories, ITV
image captionSir Keir Starmer was interviewed by Piers Morgan on ITV

Morgan asked if it was "cruel" to leave that task to him, but Sir Keir said: "No. He wasn't going to leave her side.

"There was no way he was coming out of that hospital, even to tell his own kids. He was going to stay there with her, he always did."

Sir Keir said the death of his mother, just a few weeks before he was elected as an MP in 2015, "broke" his father, adding that afterwards, "he lived but he didn't recover".

But asked by Morgan what he would like to have said to his mother before she died, Sir Keir said: "I love you."

2) His relationship with his father

Returning to his father, Morgan pointed to the difficult relationship the pair had, which Sir Keir has spoken about openly before.

The Labour leader said that, despite his achievements in law and in politics, "I only remember him once saying he was proud of me... when I passed the 11 plus, that was it".

Asked how he categorised his relationship with his father, Sir Keir added: "Distant. He was not emotional. He was a difficult man. He didn't much like company."

But he said that he did learn lessons from him, including "a sense of duty [and] a strong sense of pride and dignity in work".

And he revealed to Morgan that the relationship had had an impact on him as a father.

"I will be different with my kids," he said. "I do hug them, I do tell them I love them, they will know me, I will know them in a way I probably didn't know my dad."

3) How he met his wife

Sir Keir has been married to his wife, Victoria, since 2007, and she sat in the audience to watch the interview take place.

But when Morgan asked him how the pair had met, it was not the most romantic tale.

"I was doing a case in court and it all depended on whether the documents were accurate," said Sir Keir.

"I [asked the team] who actually drew up these documents, they said a woman called Victoria, so I said let's get her on the line."

When he spoke to her from her office as a ward sister in the NHS, he grilled her on the documents, and before he hung up he heard one comment from her.

"She said, 'who the bleep does he think he is', then put the phone down on me," Sir Keir said. "And quite right too."

image copyrightPA Media
image captionSir Keir Starmer married his wife Victoria in 2007

The pair now have two children, but Sir Keir revealed they did have time for some A-list lunches, counting Amal Clooney - who he praised as a "brilliant lawyer" - and her husband as friends.

"George gives quite a lot of advice, including to me, and he has got very strong views on American politics," he said.

Two years ago, "a lunch ended up as an afternoon, ended up as an evening" while they put the world to rights.

"There were quite a lot of empty bottles by the end of the evening, but it was great."

image captionA photo of Sir Keir from his university days was shown during the interview

4) The impersonator

When Sir Keir was the director of public prosecutions, he became embroiled in a strange case with his face at the centre of it.

He described to Morgan how serial conman Paul Bint had posed as Sir Keir with a number of goals in mind.

"He answered a lonely hearts column ad in the Sunday Times, not as himself but as me, saying I am Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, and two people took him up on his offer," he said.

"He then moved onto trying to buy a house in my name, trying to buy art in my name and also trying to run up taxi fares in my name."

And it was the latter of these crimes that got him caught.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTen years ago, pre-politics, Sir Keir was the Director of Public Prosecutions

"He would take a taxi down to one of the women he was seeing as 'Keir Starmer' in the West Country then say, 'put the bill on Crown Prosecution Service'," Sir Keir explained.

"One of the cabbies turned up at my office and said I want my money and that was when everyone started to realise what was happening."

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Bint guilty of committing two counts of fraud by false representation, as well as stealing a bracelet, burgling the robing room at St Alban's Crown Court and test driving a £59,000 Audi while disqualified.

Sir Keir said it was awful for the women involved, but he had to see the funny side for himself when one of them appeared in court.

"They were shown a picture of me and they had a picture of Paul Bint [and asked] 'did you think this was him?

"One of them said, 'well, everyone can have an off day'."

5) The UK tour

While Life Stories explores the personal, the political needed to make an appearance on the ITV show too.

Asked by Morgan about criticism that he doesn't show enough emotion, the Labour leader said: "There is a huge passion [in me], but passion comes in different shapes and sizes."

He promised a tour of the country over the summer to speak to people "who are no longer voting Labour and hear for myself what they have to say", appealing for the public to "let me get out there and let me take the mask off".

image copyrightPA Media
image captionSir Keir's first political test as leader saw his candidate, Paul Williams, lose the seat of Hartlepool

Morgan pushed him for three policies off the bat he would introduce as prime minister.

"First, a first-class education for every child, the second thing is to make sure our economy deals with insecurity and inequality, and the third thing is to put real dignity into older age," said Sir Keir.

But he also conceded there was a "huge task" in turning Labour's fortunes around and it was a "pivotal moment" for him and the party.

Finally, Morgan asked him what message he had for Boris Johnson. He replied: "Move over. We're coming."

And what would he say to him if they were on the football pitch?

"I would probably knock him over."

Piers Morgan's Life Stories with Sir Keir Starmer is available on ITV Hub.