In an hour’s interview with Piers Morgan tonight, we finally learned a bit more about the man behind Keir Starmer.
The stern lawyer took on the claims he lacks passion when up against the bumbling ball of energy that is Boris Johnson.
While his style didn’t change in tonight’s interview – aside from the odd joke, he was measured and serious as ever – Keir did open up more about what makes him tick.
He fought back tears over his mother Jo’s battle with joint condition Still’s Disease, which left her unable to speak to her own grandchildren before she died, a few weeks before he became an MP.
Keir spoke movingly too about his “distant” relationship with his dad Rodney – who gave him the middle name he disliked so much, he left it off his marriage certificate.
Devastated by his wife’s death, Rodney moved into an outbuilding which burned down – leaving Jo’s warped wedding ring in the ashes and killing his beloved dog.
There were lighter moments too. The Labour leader revealed his wife’s sweary first words to him – and confirmed he uses moisturiser every day.
And he claimed he’s a lot rowdier on the football pitch than in the Commons – saying he’d like to “knock over” Boris Johnson with an exuberant tackle.
Here are the biggest things we learned about the man behind the politician in Pier’s Morgan’s Life Stories tonight.
His cold, distant relationship with his dad
The Starmers were old-fashioned – they named their son after Labour’s co-founder Keir Hardie.
So too was the young Keir’s upbringing in the suburbs of Oxted, Surrey, where his dad decided the family did not need or want a TV.
The family went on holiday to the Lake District every year and his mum never had a passport.
“He had real difficulty expressing his emotions,” Keir said. “I only once remember him saying he was proud of me – when I passed the 11-plus.
“That was it. He came up to my bedroom, ‘I’m proud of you’, left. That’s the way he was.”
Keir said his dad was a “difficult man” who socialised little. Their relationship was “distant” – and one he is only now starting to “unravel”.
He said of his parents: “They were proud, but when I was growing up there was a distance. What I’ve learned from my dad is a sense of duty, a strong sense of pride and dignity in work.”
The heartbreak of his mum’s illness – and her death
Keir choked back tears as he spoke about his mum Jo’s long illness – dying just before he became an MP in 2015.
He said he wished he could tell her “I love you” – as he didn’t know she was going to lose the ability to speak when she did.
“My mum got Still’s Disease. It’s a disease that attacks your joints. For some people it comes and goes – for mum it came and came and came again,” he said.
“My dad was totally devoted to her and I remember being at home and he phoned and he said, ‘Your mum’s not going to make it, can you tell the others?’ And that hit me.
“He didn’t want to leave her side. There was no way he was coming out of that hospital, even to see his own kids.
“He would have stayed with her. He always did. If he couldn’t be there he would sleep on the chairs outside.”
Keir said he regretted his mother not seeing him become an MP, but added: “She was so ill by then. That was the stage of her life where she’d had her leg amputated, she couldn’t move really, she couldn’t use her hands, she had to be fed.
“She couldn’t speak, couldn’t communicate. And I’d have loved her to have been there but she was in a terrible way by then, in a terrible terrible place.
“One of my biggest regrets is that our kids never knew her because by the time they were born, she was incapable of moving, speaking, or being who she was.
“And she was broken by then. She spent her life wanting to walk, every time she was knocked over she got back up – ‘I’m going to walk’. Then she couldn’t.”
The fire that ripped through his dad’s home – and killed the family dog
When his mother died, Keir said “it broke” his dad. “He lived, he didn’t recover.”
Towards the end of their lives, Rodney and Jo ended up living in an “outhouse” on a field bought for him by his son, where they’d both rescued donkeys.
After his wife’s death, Rodney put all the family belongings in the outhouse, including his wife’s wedding ring next to him on the bed.
When he then fell ill with blood poisoning and went to hospital, tragedy struck.
“While he was in hospital, [an electrical fire] absolutely burnt through, destroying with it all of his possessions.
We raked through the ashes days later and found my mum’s wedding ring burned, bent.
“The dog was in there, and died.
“In that moment, everything they had, everything they cared about, was gone.
“When he was able to speak to us he’d say ‘is the dog all right’…. we couldn’t tell him that the outhouse with everything there didn’t exist any more. So he never knew. And I’m glad he never knew.”
Keir said his parents loved their dog so much that they took the pet along to Buckingham Palace when he was knighted – causing a minor security scare when it started barking from the car.
“My dad asks one of the attendants to look after the dog because he thought that was the most important thing,” he recalled.
Seeing his dad looked down on by society
Keir said part of his mission comes from the attitude society took to his dad.
“He was a really skilled toolmaker, and he spent his life thinking people looked down on him because he worked on the shop floor,” he said.
“And he was right about that – people did, and they still do.
“One of the burning things I take away from my dad is that sense of injustice, that we don’t value that in the way we should.”
His ‘manly passion’ – and his moisturising
The Labour leader was long rumoured to be an inspiration for Bridget Jones’ fictional lover Mark Darcy – a fact since denied by the author Helen Fielding.
But he did reveal he uses face moisturiser every say and “have done for a long time” – and joked he is “always brimming with manly passion”.
Asked to describe his best physical feature, he replied: “My hair… everybody always talks about my hair.”
His sweary introduction to his wife
The Labour leader’s wife Victoria looked on smiling as he recalled their feisty first encounter – which ended in her sounding off with a four-letter word.
“I was doing a case at court and it all depended on whether the documents were accurate,” he explained.
“I said to the team ‘are these accurate, they need to be 100% accurate otherwise we’re not going to win this argument.
“They said yes, yes, yes, I said ‘well who actually drew up these documents’, they said ‘well, a woman called Victoria’. I said ‘let’s get her on the line’
“So then I spoke to Vic on the phone, she was the solicitor at the time in the office… I said ‘are these accurate?’.
“We finished that conversation and Vic, at the other end of the line in her office, said ‘who the **** does he think he is?’ and then just put the phone down on me. And quite right too!”
He admitted it was then several months before she finally agreed to date him.
He definitely didn’t deny doing drugs
The Labour leader refused 14 times to say if he did illegal drugs when at Leeds University – where eyebrow-raising photos showed him in curly hair, eyeliner and a sleeveless checked shirt.
He said “drugs weren’t my thing” but admitted “we had a good time at university” and said: “We worked hard and played hard”.
Pressed again, the former Director of Public Prosecutions said: “I haven’t said no”.
How he REALLY hates his middle name – leading to an epic wedding prank
Keir’s full name is Keir Rodney Starmer – but he hates his middle name so much he left it off his wedding certificate.
But that led to a cruel prank from his friends when it was absent from his marriage.
“This is the kind of friends I’ve got,” he said.
“Just as we went away on honeymoon, they faked a document from Essex council saying something along the lines of, ‘It’s come to our attention that on your wedding certificate you used the name ‘Keir Starmer’ when your name was ‘Keir Rodney Starmer’.
“I regret to tell you that as a result of that, your marriage is annulled, it’s void.’”
‘Football Keir’ wants to knock Boris Johnson over
“There’s a big difference between the forensic lawyer and Keir on the football pitch,” he said. “If I was Keir on the football pitch I think I’d be chucked out by the Speaker.”
Asked for his general message to Boris Johnson, the Labour leader replied: “Move over! Move over, we’re coming”.
But asked what he would say on a football pitch to him, he hit back: “I would probably knock him over.”
His ‘hurt’ over Labour’s election results
While most of the interview looked at his personality there was time to discuss the dire local election results for Labour in England.
“Of course I’m not going to pretend the last few weeks have been easy,” he said. “There’s a huge emotion that runs through the Labour Party and we lost in Hartlepool, we lost badly. When you want to win it hurts to lose, there’s emotion there”.
Asked if he lacked passion, he replied: “There’s a huge passion, but passion comes in different shapes and sizes.”
Asked for three words to sum up a Keir Starmer Britain he replies: “Pride in our country; dignity for children growing up, dignity at work; and change.”
Asked for his top three policies he replied: “First class education for every child.
“Second thing, to make sure our economy deals with insecurity and inequality.
“And the third thing is to put real dignity into older age.”
He added: “For me, for my party, this chance at the next election isn’t going to come again.” Is that a hint he would only fight one general election for Labour if he loses? Time will tell.