Can Kier Starmer improve his public image?

He’s been advised to talk more about his achievements and be less shy.

MattOwensRees writer on Thai culture and lifestyle

MattOwensRees writer on Thai culture and lifestyle

4 min read.

In a podcast with James O’Brien, Starmer, the leader of the Labour party and leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, was coaxed into talking more about himself and his achievements.

The full podcast lasts 1 hour 4 minutes, gives information not previously in the public domain, and discusses the achievements which Starmer has been too shy to admit to.

It’s well worth listening to, but I will summarise the key points below.

Some key points in Starmer’s life, before moving into politics.

Starmer has been leader of the Opposition since 19 October 2022, a position which provides an additional salary, has perquisites similar to that of a cabinet minister, and is automatically appointed a Privy Councellor.

He became barrister in 1987, a QC in 2002, and specialised in human rights issues. Starmer took on many pro bono cases, not charging the clients any fees.

After receiving a Bachelor of Laws degree from Leeds University, receiving first class honours, he carried out postgraduate studies at St Edmund’s Hall Oxford, resulting in the award of the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford in 1986.

Between 2008 and 2013 he was the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, being appointed with the approval of a majority of the UK’s establishment, including the previous incumbent. It was widely agreed that he would bring a much-needed focus of human rights to the legal system.

Starmer says he’s the enemy of injustice, preferring to fix problems rather than talking about them. He wants real change, in order to make Society fairer for everyone in the country, whether they are rich and powerful or not.
Starmer says he’s the enemy of injustice, preferring to fix problems rather than talking about them. He wants real change, in order to make Society fairer for everyone in the country, whether they are rich and powerful or not.

The main observations that come out of the podcast

Accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of twisting the facts on why the pedophile Jimmy Savile was not prosecuted. Some of my own family members, working at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, were aware of Savile’s activities, but also realised that they would not be believed if they became “whistle-blowers.” He had too many connections in high places.

Starmer successfully brought in Protestant police officers into what was previously a Catholic-only police force in Northern Ireland. This integration started to filter down to the entire community, with obvious reductions in tension between the two factions.

He was called to the bar in several Caribbean countries, advocating removal of the death penalty in murder and manslaughter cases, and defending, on a no fee basis, some accused of those crimes.

The media and right-wing politicians typically accused Starmer, when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, of not dealing with cases which attracted the public interest.

In many of those cases, the evidence was simply not strong enough to proceed. In others, and this is rarely mentioned, he DID proceed but juries returned not guilty verdicts. It is not the job of the Director of Public Prosecutions to try cases; judges and juries decide.

We have already discussed the Savile case, but Starmer has successfully prosecuted one Conservative and two Labour politicians for fraudulent accounting. The Labour MP., Jim Devine, is but one notable example.

At 40 minutes into the podcast, Starmer talks of his decision NOT to prosecute the mother of a 20-year-old rugby player who had been accused of assisting in his suicide. And then, in a further example, he discusses his campaigning to change the law to stop judges allowing bail to those accused of severe domestic violence.

Starmer’s strategy for becoming Prime Minister

The podcast showed that Sir Kier Starmer does not like talking about himself, and he explained why. Unusually for a barrister who was made a Queen’s Counsel, he doesn’t seek the spotlight, preferring to identify a problem and getting on with fixing it without a lot of fuss.

However, at times in the podcast, he did open up and show he has a sense of humour. But it required some coaxing! For Labour to be seen only as an activist party, with no plans for achieving the power of government and thus the opportunity to effect change in society, would not work.

F.E.Smith, King’s Counsel (photo credit
F.E.Smith, King’s Counsel (photo credit

A good example of using humour to influence people is this exchange between a judge and the famous barrister F.E.Smith, Lord Birkenhead.

Judge: I’ve listened to you for an hour and am none the wiser.
F.E.Smith: Possibly not, my lord, but you are better informed.

Starmer feels that education is important, and should be available to all, not just the privileged few from wealthy backgrounds, not just dependent on the class to which you belong. He’s concerned to give children the best start in life. Starmer mentions how his father, although a skilled toolmaker, always felt others looked down on him because he worked in a factory.

At the end of the podcast, the interviewer suggests that Starmer should be more boastful about his achievements and political objectives. Although not being a showman like Boris, James O’Brien that he should be like a salesman, persuading the electorate of the validity of his views.

Starmer ultimately agreed that he should talk more about himself, be more open.

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