6 things you (probably) don't know about Keir Starmer, our new prime minister

From an epic legal battle against McDonald's to being burgled without realising - here are some unusual facts you might not know about our new PM.

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer react as they greet Labour  campaigners and activists at Number 10 Downing Street, following the results of the election, in London, Britain, July 5, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Sir Keir Starmer outside 10 Downing Street, following the results of the election. (Reuters)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has officially won the 2024 general election, after securing the 326 seats required to form a government.

Such a win for Starmer represents a remarkable turnaround from the position Labour was in when he took over as leader in April 2020. Months before, in the 2019 election, the party had suffered its worst result since 1935.

As he prepares to enter Downing Street, here are six facts you probably didn't know about the UK's next prime minister.

Starmer trained as a lawyer and became director of public prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013 after a distinguished legal career.

After being called to the bar in 1987, three years later he was among an idealistic group of progressive lawyers who formed the Doughty Street chambers, specialising in human rights with half their cases either paid for by legal aid or free of charge.

Starmer was involved in advising the so-called McLibel Two, a pair of environmental activists who took on McDonald’s in a marathon David v Goliath defamation case.

In that case, McDonald’s had sued Helen Steel and David Morris under defamation law over a leaflet they had distributed criticising the company’s practices. It became the longest case in English legal history, having run for two-and-a-half years.

Much has been made of Starmer’s past backing of Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor as Labour leader. Starmer, having since booted Corbyn out of the party, tried to play this down during the election campaign.

But amid the rancour between the two men, one small thing they can agree on is football: they are both Arsenal season ticket holders. Starmer has also been seen at numerous away games.

The Evening Standard earlier this year reported how Starmer, having witnessed Arsenal fail to win the Premier League title in the final game of the season against Everton at the Emirates Stadium in May, drowned his sorrows with a beer in the nearby Landseer Arms pub.

Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer in the stands ahead of the Premier League match at Amex Stadium, Brighton. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2024. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer at an Arsenal away game at Brighton in April. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Starmer has long shown his diligence in the courtroom and the House of Commons, but a former flatmate has shared how the now-Labour leader once failed to notice two house invaders.

Paul Vickers told the BBC in 2009: "He's very driven. He becomes very, very focused on an issue, very quickly. There was one occasion when I came back to the house and there were two burglars walking down the stairs carrying our television and video recorder. I said 'I live here' and they threw the telly and video recorder at me and ran off.

"So I ran upstairs thinking I was going to find an empty, ransacked house. [I] went into the house and there was Keir sitting at his desk working. He was so obsessed with the books, so buried in his texts, that he didn’t notice two burglars walking round the house, helping themselves to our stuff.”

Vickers also recalled Starmer as "very keen on" Jamaican singer-songwriter Desmond Dekker in that 2009 BBC profile. In a Leeds University interview, meanwhile, the Labour leader recalled seeing bands such as Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and The Smiths during his time in the city as a student.

However, in an interview with Classic FM last year, Starmer said Beethoven is his “great passion” and that he listens to classical music often because “it just takes you away from whatever the other strains of the day are to a different place”. He named Beethoven’s fifth Piano Concerto as his favourite.

What many voters may be surprised to hear is that Starmer himself played four instruments while growing up – flute, recorder, piano and violin – leading to him getting on to the Guildhall School’s junior programme as a teenager. He also also played music at school, revealing in 2021 that he learned violin alongside DJ and record producer Fatboy Slim.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during an interview with Classic FM presenter Anne-Marie Minhall (not seen) about the importance of music education in schools, his own passion for music and his favourite piece of classical music, at the Global Radio studios in central London. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2023. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a Classic FM interview in July last year. (PA Images via Getty Images)

An impersonator of Starmer had relationships with women and attempted to buy art and a house in his name while he was director of public prosecutions.

Paul Bint answered lonely hearts adverts in the Sunday Times pretending to be Starmer and was eventually caught after charging taxi fares to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Labour leader recalled in a 2021 interview with Piers Morgan.

"One of the cabbies turned up at my office and said ‘I want my bleep money’," he said.

Bint, known as King Con with his "appalling record" of similar offences stretching back 30 years, was jailed for three years in 2009.

“Whenever one of us left home, they were replaced with a donkey,” Starmer is quoted as saying about his animal loving parents who rescued donkeys and Great Dane dogs.

In 2020, their love of donkeys was even the subject of a news story when the Daily Mail ran an article highlighting the fact the Labour leader owned seven acres of land next to the property where he grew up.

Labour told the paper at the time: "Keir purchased the field for his late disabled mother. The field was used to house donkeys that Keir’s parents rescued and cared for. After his mother lost the ability to walk, the field allowed her to still watch the donkeys from her home."

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