Where did Keir Starmer get his name? Here's the surprising story behind it

Keir Starmer's name comes from his ‘Labour family’.

Where did Keir Starmer get his name
© Bloomberg/ GETTYIMAGES
Where did Keir Starmer get his name

Keir Starmer grew up in Surrey, in what he has described as a ‘Labour family’. He was the second of four children and his parents, Rodney and Josephine, had jobs that heavily influenced Starmer’s outlook and principles. Rodney was a toolmaker and worked in a factory while Josephine was a nurse for the NHS.

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Starmer’s parents shared similar values in that they believed in working hard, acting selflessly and taking care of the family unit. These were soaked up by Starmer and can be seen in his political perspective today. Keir Starmer’s career has not been without controversy, and he has faced criticism both in his personal life and his political one - namely for coming across as boring and for his stance on international issues. However, it is clear that Labour runs through his blood, and the story behind his name proves it.

Keir Starmer: the story behind his name

Starmer started off his career as a lawyer, having been the first person in his family to go to university. He entered politics relatively late in life, at 52 years old. Starmer has been an MP for Homborn and St Pancras since 2015, and was elected as Labour’s new leader in 2020. That same year, he did an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, where he opened up about his parents.

Keir’s parents were such strong supporters of Labour that they named their son after a founder of the Labour Party and its first parliamentary leader, Keir Hardie. Although Keir Starmer now earns a 6-figure salary, he has repeatedly insisted that his ‘background isn’t what people think it is’. He told the Today programme:

As for the middle-class thrust, as you know, my dad worked in a factory, he was a toolmaker and my mum was a nurse.
She contracted a very rare disease early in her life which meant she was constantly in need of NHS care.
I have actually never been in any other workplace other than a factory until I left university.

Keir Starmer’s mother's disease

Indeed, in his BBC Radio 4 appearance, Starmer explained how his mother’s health issues impacted his family. He explained that he doesn’t often talk about his dad because he was ‘a difficult man, a complicated man’. However, he also said that his father cared for his mother throughout her battle against a rare autoimmune disease called Still’s. He said:

Also, he had this utter commitment and devotion to my mum.
My mum was very, very ill all of her life and my dad knew exactly the symptoms of everything that might possibly go wrong with my mum.

This devotion is something that Starmer admired, and this is something that shines through in his family-oriented politics. Josephine Starmer died in 2015 and Rodney, dealing with his grief, moved out to an outhouse where he lived until he died three years later, in 2018.

Starmer has recounted how his father was taken to hospital after he suffered some cuts to his legs that led to complications. The outhouse, containing Josephine’s wedding ring and the family dog, tragically burned down due to an electrical fire. Starmer told Piers Morgan on his Life Stories interview:

We couldn't tell him that everything in the outhouse didn't exist anymore. So he never knew and I'm glad he never knew. It was difficult.

Starmer has his own family now and is one of the most prominent politicians in the UK. He continues to live by the values and lessons his parents passed down to him, and even his name is a constant reminder of his roots.

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Sources used:

Express: Keir Starmer father: How Labour leader's working-class upbringing paved way to politics

Mirror: Keir Starmer's home burnt down with dog inside while dad was dying in hospital

ERLDC: Who Were Keir Starmer’s Parents? Insight into the Labour Leader’s Upbringing

Keir Starmer: The Labour leader's first official biography is out now Keir Starmer: The Labour leader's first official biography is out now