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Keir Starmer

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Keir Rodney Starmer (1962–) is a former barrister and a British Labour Party MP. He's been the Labour Party leader since 4 April 2020, succeeding Jeremy Corbyn. Prior to becoming leader, he had served as the party's shadow Brexit secretary and was a strong advocate for the ultimately unsuccessful cause to hold a "People's Vote" (referendum) on the agreement reached with the European Union.

Despite initially running as a broad "unity candidate" in the leadership contest, this was ultimately a hope voided with a party in a constant, factional cold war, and not helped by his walking back, watering down or abandoning a great many of his pledges as leader—originally running as essentially a more presentable and "electable" Corbyn and claiming that Labour's 2017 manifesto[1] would be his starting point, he has since drifted to the right on many issues, undermining his own mandate. As of now, he is now largely favoured by the party's centre-right faction, with many of the "soft left" who voted for him coming away embittered. The harder left, meanwhile, never trusted or liked him in the first place.

Before politics[edit]

Prior to entering politics, Starmer was a human rights barrister and a career defender before becoming Director of Public Prosecutions. In that capacity he served from 2008 until 2013. He has co-written five books about human rights and co-edited two more. His only book credit as sole author to date deals with the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain's Human Rights Act 1998, and how they connect. He has been involved in high-profile human rights cases all over the world, with pro-bono work in challenging the death penalty, with significant contributions to efforts throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. He was a founding director of charity 'the Death Penalty Project'.[2] Of note, he helped in winning appeal against the government for two environmental activists at the ECHR as part of the McLibel trial, the longest running libel case in British history.[3] He was the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, holding the title Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, from 2008 to 2013. In the 2014 Honours, he was awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of Bath,Wikipedia one of the highest orders of chivalry, for his legal work. From this, he is often referred to in the British press as Sir Keir Starmer, though he prefers not to use the title.

Frontline politics[edit]

Shadow Brexit Secretary[edit]

Just after Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party and leader of the Opposition, he appointed Starmer to be Shadow Minister for Immigration in 2015. He resigned in 2016 after the Brexit referendum in protest at Corbyn's leadership, along with several others in the shadow cabinet. He said it was "simply untenable now to suggest we can offer an effective opposition without a change of leader". After winning his second leadership election, Corbyn reassigned Starmer to be Shadow Brexit Secretary in 2016. In the latter capacity, his legal expertise empowered him to scrutinise the finer points of the government's plans regarding trade agreements and the adoption of various EU laws post-Brexit.

In the run up to the 2019 United Kingdom general election, Starmer strongly advocated holding a second referendum on EU membership. Corbyn ended up making a second referendum a manifesto pledge. At hustings events, his rivals for the leadership claimed that this cost the Party seats in the North of England, where sizeable majorities voted to leave. Starmer countered this by claiming that over many visits to constituencies over the campaign other issues came up, such as a lack of trust in Corbyn and worries over antisemitism in Labour. He went on to say Corbyn’s leadership was the number one issue on the doorstep, as was 'manifesto overload'. Starmer said 'Whether what was in the manifesto was right or wrong, there was too much. There was a tipping point, and it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad, because people didn’t believe we could deliver it.'[4][5]

Labour leadership[edit]


Starmer campaigning in Bristol, 2020.

Following the disastrous results of the December 2019 election, Corbyn announced his intention to resign. Starmer was elected as Labour’s new leader on 4 April 2020.[6] Starmer (and his competitors, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, whom he tried to stand between ideologically) learned of the results via email; the conference where the results were due to be announced was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Long-Bailey (endorsed by the leftmost wing of the party) and Nandy (endorsed mostly by people on its right wing) had also served in Corbyn's shadow cabinet. Starmer initially gave them important frontbench roles,[note 1] but in June he sacked Long-Bailey after accusations of antisemitism after she retweeted an interview with Maxine Peake talking about a conspiracy theory about Israel, in relation to the recent murder of George Floyd. It's as bizarre as it sounds.[7]

Starmer signed up for a stupidly hard job becoming leader of the Labour Party, and it was a very rocky road at the outset. He inherited a party that had lost four elections in a row, contained "soft left" and "hard left" factions that did not trust each other, and was widely distrusted on the economy. Boris Johnson's Conservative Party had a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons.[note 2] When Starmer took over the party, the Conservatives were also leading the Labour Party by approximately 20 percentage points in the polls. A few months into Starmer's leadership, the gap was considerably narrower.[8]

From the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Starmer became notorious for roasting Boris Johnson into burnt turkey in every single PMQ, as he easily picked apart Johnson's frankly terrible response negligence. This probably didn't mean much for polling as not many people care about PMQs, but it certainly made some minor headlines given nothing else was happening (pandemic). Still, it was a good laugh seeing Johnson looking like a complete wally, as Starmer's previous work made it rather easy to take down any bollocks that BoJo stirred, making him look goofy and clueless. Which is, obviously, Johnson's actual character.

In August 2020, he supported the government re-opening of schools the following month in an opinion piece for the Daily Mail, despite the still-ongoing pandemic,[9] a mistake many other usually sensible people keep making for some reason.

In his leader's speech at the September 2020 party conference, Starmer distanced himself from Corbyn by saying the party "deserved" to lose the 2019 election, under the general pretext that Labour did not fully appeal to all voters,[note 3] and Labour is now under "new leadership".[10]

Also in September, he expelled three MPs from his shadow cabinet after they defied the party whip by voting against a bill which would introduce a "presumption against prosecution", protecting British soldiers accused of committing crimes while serving overseas, which critics described as "legalising torture". Starmer's claimed reason for the whip to vote for was so that the bill could eventually be amended in second reading, and Labour did eventually vote against it after these efforts to amend it failed. It is, to be fair to Starmer, normal practice for members of the shadow cabinet to vote with the whip and be removed (or resign) from it if they feel unable to do so.[11]

While these events were not controversial at first, the party would plunge (back) into civil war when its National Executive Committee suspended Corbyn the following month, citing his unrepentance on Labour's longstanding antisemitism controversy, after an EHRC investigation concluded on the matter.[12] This was met with heavy backlash from the left wing of the party, which blamed Starmer for it, painting him as a figure similar to Neil Kinnock (the leader who started pulling Labour to the real or perceived centre in the 1980s, which the left in turn blames for recent failures—more so than Tony Blair, oddly enough, given that Blair's project was well to the right of Kinnock's). Corbyn was reinstated as a Labour Party member within three weeks, but Starmer refused to restore Corbyn's whip in the Commons, and then promptly suspended a member of the party for defending Corbyn … who happened to be Jewish.


In 2021, Johnson and the Conservative government saw a boost in popularity—largely due to the UK's successful vaccination rollout.[13] In the May 2021 local elections (Starmer's first electoral test as leader[note 4]), Labour performed poorly across England, losing hundreds of council seats.[note 5] Labour also lost the Brexit-voting town of Hartlepool to the Conservatives in a parliamentary by-election[14]—the first time Labour has ever lost this seat. The only ray of light was in the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd), where Labour defied expectations by increasing its vote share and seats. In a rare action for a politician, Starmer acknowledged that Labour has lost the voters' trust and took full responsibility for it,[15] vowing to come back with an all-new manifesto for Labour.[16] At the very least, it was nice to see somebody acknowledging the serious crisis Labour faces, ignited by factional infighting.

In September 2021, after over a year of ignoring Labour MP Rosie Duffield's transphobia, Starmer went mask-off and advocated excluding trans women from some "women-only spaces".[17]


Starmer's fortunes began to turn around in December 2021 and January 2022. The 'Partygate' scandal did significant harm to the approval ratings of both Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. As a result, the 'vaccine bounce' poll lead for the Conservatives has been reversed, with Labour averaging a lead of five to ten percentage points.

Starmer himself was counter-accused of breaking lockdown rules after months-old video footage showed him and his staff eating curry and drinking beer whilst campaigning in the aforementioned Hartlepool by-election, in what was creatively called 'Beergate'. Starmer was subsequently investigated by police and cleared of any wrongdoing.[18] In the same week, Boris Johnson announced he would be resigning as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Labour only really started taking a firm lead in the polls in late 2022 after the hapless Liz Truss, who might just be a sleeper agent for the Liberal Democrats, did her best to blow up the economy with a deeply irresponsible economic plan, leading to an immediate jump in already-rising living costs and causing economic havoc, before her swift resignation.[note 6] Labour has since maintained its polling lead after Rishi Sunak became the new prime minister and then promptly went into hiding, even as public services appeared to collapse around him visibly in a haze of industrial disputes and continued underfunding.


In January alone, in addition to walking back yet another key pledge he made, this time on tuition fees,[19] he's managed to piss off trans people and Scots alike by whipping the party to back the Tories (tacitly) on blocking reforms to gender reassignment processes in Scotland,[20] leading to condemnation from many UK and devolved Labour representatives (the highest ranking being the party's leader in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford), who were clearly concerned at both the disproportionality of this and the implications for devolution on what, ultimately, was a relatively minor change to the law.

In mid-February, he also declared he would not let Corbyn stand for Labour at the next general election.[21]

On Easter Sunday (9 April), Starmer attended a church that is part of the Evangelical AllianceWikipedia, a sect that is against same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, cited "religious liberty" to try to justify its opposition to a ban on conversion therapy, and espouses transphobic views. He was criticised for this. Starmer previously (in 2021) attended the Jesus House Church in London, which is alleged to practice conversion therapy and is also associated with the Evangelical Alliance. That time, he apologised; in 2023, he has not. When the Labour press office was asked for comment by PinkNews, they simply forwarded over a statement from "the Audacious Foundation" but didn't provide any themselves.[22]

On April 6th, the official Labour Twitter posted a tweet that claimed that Rishi Sunak doesn't support "locking up" paedophiles. While this personal attack was rightfully condemned across the political spectrum, including by Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey, former Blair Home Secretary David Blunkett, former Corbyn Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell, and even within Starmer's shadow cabinet (with Yvette Cooper having not been told about the post), Starmer refused to back down, writing in a Daily Snail that he stood by every word of the post regardless of whether it made people squeamish.[23][24][25][26]

On 9th June, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves recently announced the watering down of Labour £28bn green projects pledge, as Labour have suggested that the plan needed to be scaled back in order to be seen as 'fiscally responsible', [27] this comes off the heels of Rachel Reeves' visit to the US visiting BlackRock offices, suggesting a Bidenomics approach.

Starmer further, in July 2023, confirmed that he wouldn't scrap the two-child limit for child benefit, which the Labour Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary had just days before described as "heinous".[28] It's getting less and less clear what Starmer even wants to do in office, as he seems terrified of the idea of spending any money or changing anything at all. Rachel Reeves in August would come out and say they aren't changing any tax rates for higher earners once again proving they are terrified of changing anything either through donor influence or poltical cowardice.


Starmer's record on trans rights is at best inconsistent, but has dramatically worsened over time. As of 2023, he is now outright repeating transphobic canards and can confidently be called either a transphobe, or at best someone who is willing to espouse transphobia for political purposes. It's got so bad that members of Labour's own LGBT group are now being reported to be uncomfortable with attending Pride events, due to the party becoming "toxic" amongst the LGBT community and this leading them to fear for their safety.[29]

During the 2020 leadership contest, Starmer declined to sign a "Labour for Trans Rights" pledge card that both his rivals did.[30] Despite this, he promised in 2021 that he would in power reform the Gender Recognition Act and introduce self-ID for trans people, saying "staying silent is not enough, it's never enough".[31] This position matches the unambiguous stance adopted in Labour's 2019 manifesto.[32] As late as October 2022, he was quoted at the PinkNews awards as criticising "the rhetoric we’ve seen towards trans people" and the the use of minority rights for "tactical gain".[33] A very good statement of intent! After that, though... wew lad.

His response to the blocking by the UK government of a tiny change to gender recognition in Scotland was to reiterate TERF talking points about so-called "sex-based rights."[34] He then later apparently whipped his party to abstain rather than vote "no" on the motion to do so, meaning they were (aside from 11 MPs who rebelled and voted no explicitly[note 7]) abstaining on the principle of Scotland's devolution and trans rights in one fell swoop.

Most prominently, one of his MPs, Rosie Duffield, has retained the Labour whip despite being an unrepentant transphobe whose own staff have resigned citing her transphobia as the reason, who deliberately and publicly misgendered a prominent trans PPC, and who Labour's own LGBT+ group have been calling to have the whip taken off for years.[36] His response in January 2023 to one of her semi-frequent hissy-fits about the party not immediately supporting her transphobic views at any given moment (which included an article on the right-wing webshite UnHerd in which she compared her continuing Labour membership to domestic abuse[37]) was to say that gender should be debated, but respectfully without any real discussion of the substance of her views. It's a tacit confession that he doesn't consider trans rights worth sticking his neck out for, and that he also thinks that transphobes might have a point.[38]

In March 2023, Starmer removed all doubt by finally getting off the fence and saying that, contrary to a clear promise, he was now against self-identification of trans people and Gender Recognition Act reform, while also spouting bio-essentialist hogwash like “for 99.9 per cent of women the issue is biological”.[39][note 8] He followed this up in April 2023, by getting worse; reiterating the "99.9% of women" thing, framing trans rights as being in opposition to women's rights, and joining in the typical TERF obsession with genitals by saying "For 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological... and of course they haven’t got a penis."[41] He's since gone even further, calling Duffield an "important voice" within the party.[42] The reason Duffield is still in situ, then, is that he agrees with her on all matters of substance and is now happy to espouse the same things.

Starmer has also gone on record as believing trans children should need the express consent of their parents to be able to transition socially, such as at school, and that schools should be required to inform the parents of said children of this. Transphobes were delighted at his sudden discovery of "common sense".[43] This flies in the face of existing Department for Education statutory guidance, which expressly mentions the safeguarding risks that apply to LGBT children and the need to preserve the child's express wishes regarding who to tell.[44] Requiring trans children (or indeed, gay or bi children) to out themselves to their parents poses very real and obvious risks to their personal safety and autonomy in the event that their family disapprove for whatever reason.

He did express some level of surprise, in the same interview wherein he defended Duffield, at the amount of debate there was about trans rights when it's not relevant to the material conditions of most voters.[42] You can take that one of two ways: either the absurd level of debate has nothing to do with the actual impact of trans rights on 99% of people, or trans rights don't matter because most people don't care about them. If he meant the former rather than the latter, this is at least defensible, but doesn't make any better his clearly siding with the transphobes against trans rights.[note 9] If it's the latter, this is him throwing a minority under the bus for electoral reasons, itself either because he's too cowardly to disagree with Mumsnet or because he thinks he can get away with it. You choose which one you consider most plausible.

Starmer's Labour's response to a proposed change in the law to exempt trans people from protection relating to their gender explicitly by stressing that only biological sex is protected under the Equality Act 2010 was a non-committal "Clarification is a good thing. We will look closely at what is brought forward."[45] If Labour is against this move, which would effectively legalise discrimination against trans people in employment, public services and everyday life, they're certainly saying nothing concrete about it at all.

And it keeps getting worse. Tom Harwood of GB News[note 10] claimed to have been leaked an updated Labour policy document which shows that self-identification for trans people has now been dropped totally, with reform of the Gender Recognition Act being watered down to "build a consensus on modernising... while upholding the Equality Act, including the single sex exemptions it provides."[46] Starmer was apparently supposed to tweet the commitment to GRA modernisation on Trans Day of Visibility... but was vetoed at the last minute by one of his staff.[47] Even worse than that, Harwood also claimed that a senior source in LGBT Labour told him that "the Labour brand has become toxic within the community", and that there are "genuine safety concerns for members at pride events".[29][48]

Ten pledges?[edit]

We should treat the 2017 manifesto as our foundational document, the radicalism and the hope that that inspired across the country was real.
—Quote from the man himself during the 2020 leadership campaign

A common complaint people on the left of the Labour Party have with him is that he has gone back on, de-emphasised, or stopped talking about many of his clear pledges that he made to the membership in the 2020 leadership campaign. Helpfully, Starmer has kept his campaign website active and the pledges visible,[49] so we can look at them and assess them one by one against both media statements and party policy documents.

A note here on evidence and how this is assessed: the assessment of the pledges and whether they've been kept or not is based on reports of Starmer and his shadow cabinet's statements and actions (or inactions) from the end of the leadership contest onwards. Naturally, some of these may change over time—for example, commitments supporting the pledges might wind up being included in a Labour manifesto, or (should Labour win the next election, whether under Starmer's leadership or somebody else's) they may be implemented even without that. However, we can only assess the situation as it is right now, based on what Labour, Starmer, and the shadow cabinet have said publicly, rather than speculate as to what will be in a manifesto or what Starmer might do in power. The only restriction here is that we cannot treat the mere fact that Starmer made a pledge during the leadership contest as evidence that he intends to stick to it, for obvious reasons. We mention every place where no evidence has been found that Starmer has mentioned a pledge or a component of it in some time or since the leadership contest, or where he and other senior party officials have made contradictory statements.

In May 2023, a draft national policy platform was leaked to LabourList, which is expected to be the basis of the next Labour manifesto - and therefore the clearest signal of what a Starmer government would do.[50] The pledges are separately assessed against this, in addition to previous media coverage.

We also aren't making a judgment here on whether it's good if Starmer breaks his pledges.[note 11] Certainly, on a normative level, some people might not want him to honour the pledges or think it's a good idea for them to be dropped—but the question here is whether he can be descriptively judged to have broken promises he made when he was running to become leader, and if so, to what degree.

The results aren't pretty. Of the ten pledges Starmer made during his leadership campaign:

  • One has been kept in terms of policy, with some serious caveats or watering down after the fact;
  • Two are not falsifiable, being either wholly subjective or things that he could only keep by a reaction to world events beyond his control;
  • A fourth, which is also not falsifiable, has been categorically broken in spirit through Starmer either accepting or espousing various forms of bigotry within his party;
  • The remaining six have been either entirely broken or mostly broken, either through deliberate contradiction, letting them fall by the wayside and never mentioning them again, or in one case making a pledge he could never have hoped to keep in the first place.

The overall effect of this is that Starmer's professed beliefs and priorities since the leadership contest have been a great deal less radical and interventionist than he claimed to be before it, and that he all but claimed to be "Corbynism without Corbyn" while pursuing the leadership but has taken a centre-right line on most issues since he won. One could reasonably surmise that he essentially wants to keep things basically as they are now with the most undesirable edges filed off somewhat, and that he's happy to take the Tories' lead on most issues and not rock the boat too much ... unless they do so first.

For now, let's look at the evidence and see how this stacks up.

Pledge 1: Economic justice[edit]

Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.

This started as mixed but has sunk into negativity since. Starmer has supported Rishi Sunak's proposals to increase corporation tax from 19% to 25%, which can be supposed to constitute keeping this pledge, though, realistically, it's difficult to give Starmer credit for this given he didn't do anything or argue for this in any way after becoming leader. Indeed, the only real record of him talking about corporation tax between the leadership contest and then is him calling in 2021 for such a move to be delayed.[51]

The income tax part has been categorically and avowedly broken. Rather than increasing income tax for the top 5% of earners, he has only committed to keep the top income tax rate at 45%, not to restore it to 50%, as of September 2022.[52] Confirming this, in May 2023 he was asked directly about the pledge to increase taxes on the top 5% of earners, and simply said that the tax burden was too high and that he wanted to move away from "tax and spend", which is the final nail in this particular coffin.[53]

He doesn't seem to have anything to say on large corporate tax avoidance, instead focusing on "non-doms" (people who are factually resident in the UK but tax resident elsewhere), who are individuals rather than corporations.[54] Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves has also said that she wouldn't increase Capital Gains Tax either, despite CGT being something that disproportionately affects the wealthy.[55] As of august 2023 reeves has completely ditched the increase

Nobody can assess a statement like "No stepping back from our core principles" except subjectively. Clearly, the Labour left might have a bone to pick with this, but we can't draw any factual conclusions from it.

In summary, these pledges, to the extent they are even falsifiable, have been broken. He has directly countermanded his pledge on income tax, he didn't talk about his pledge on corporation tax until Rishi Sunak implemented it for him, and he's said nothing at all about corporate tax avoidance. The apparent outcome of a Starmer premiership would be that nobody, least of all the rich, would pay more tax at all.

National Policy Platform says: "End tax breaks for private equity bosses" is included but that's about it as far as corporate taxation is concerned. No mention of an increase in income tax or corporation tax, and a vague mention of "Crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance" but no specifics.

Overall verdict: Pledges Massively broken

Pledge 2: Social justice[edit]

Abolish Universal Credit and end the Tories’ cruel sanctions regime. Set a national goal for wellbeing to make health as important as GDP; Invest in services that help shift to a preventative approach. Stand up for universal services and defend our NHS. Support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning.

The clearest sign from the Labour front bench about "abolishing" Universal Credit involves nothing more than changing its name (to what, they don't specify) and replacing it with something similar, having no apparent moral or technical concerns with the existing structure.[56] More recently, they have said that not only will Universal Credit continue to exist, so will benefit sanctions, and benefits will continue to be conditional, signalling a far less decisive break from the past than Starmer promised.[57]

Since he was elected leader, Starmer has not even brought up the "National Goal for Wellbeing" or preventative services, so we can assume he has (1) killed them, (2) let others kill them, or (3) let them die.

The NHS portion is exceptionally contentious. His shadow Health secretary, Wes Streeting, has a nasty habit of popping up to tell everyone that he wants to bring more private provision into the NHS[58] while then going on to attack doctors and doctors' unions[59] while the party commits to ill-defined "reform" of the service. While there have been commitments to keeping the NHS universal and free at point of use, it's difficult to see how any of this can be construed as "defending the NHS" given it seems to be deliberately picking a fight with doctors and the health service.

As of January 2023, Starmer had all but rowed back completely now on abolishing tuition fees, claiming that the pandemic and Russia's[note 12] assault on Ukraine made this untenable and that "we'll need to look at that promise again".[19] Finally, in May 2023, Starmer directly confirmed that tuition fees would absolutely not be abolished at all, and instead Labour was "looking at options".[60]

These pledges have, if not been outright broken (as the pledge on tuition fees has, avowedly), been either ignored or drastically watered down.

National Policy Platform says: No mention at all of abolishing Universal Credit or of abolishing sanctions, of a "national goal for wellbeing", or of preventative services. There is, however, a clear commitment to outsourcing to the "independent" (read: private) sector to clear waiting lists. The platform doesn't say that tuition fees will be abolished, but instead says that Labour will "reform [the] broken tuition fees system for university funding". Basically, nothing survives of the pledges.

Overall verdict: Pledges broken

Pledge 3: Climate justice[edit]

Put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do. There is no issue more important to our future than the climate emergency. A Clean Air Act to tackle pollution locally. Demand international action on climate rights.

As recently as September 2022, Starmer has proposed an ambitious plan for significantly increasing renewable energy production in the UK that would significantly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels;[61] this is an unambiguous net good. On the downside, Starmer has apparently all but stopped talking about the far more wide-reaching concept of a "Green New Deal" after September 2021, along with most related concepts, and the party blocked debate on a motion calling for one at Labour conference around the same time.[62] The National Policy Platform goes further than this, even, and what results is ultimately a "Green New Deal" in all but name.

Talk of the "Clean Air Act" seemed to have stopped around January 2022, but also reappeared in the National Policy Platform in May 2023, as did international action to enforce climate rights.

National Policy Platform says: Starmer's actually kept most of these; albeit not using the specific term "Green New Deal", the platform includes pretty much everything that could rationally be included in such a thing, and the Clean Air Act and international action on climate change are both included. This was an unambiguous win on Starmer's part.

...but then in June 2023, Rachel Reeves popped up to drastically scale back the plans and kick the promised £28billion a year investment down the road. Of course she did.[63]

Overall verdict: Pledges kept... maybe?

Pledge 4: Promote peace and human rights[edit]

No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.

Much of this is out of Starmer's control, given that he's only leader of the Opposition, so it's very difficult to assess.

No parliamentary votes have come up on military action since Starmer became leader, so we can't assess whether he's kept the promise "No more illegal wars." He's not said he'll wage any illegal wars at least, so that's nice.[note 13]

"Put human rights at the heart of foreign policy" and "Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice" are not falsifiable statements. Starmer's not in charge of foreign policy or arms sales, so nobody can meaningfully assess him as having broken or kept these.

To his credit, though, he has consistently criticised the UK's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and supported continued spending on international aid.[64] But on the debit side, he's also been happily associating with representatives of the arms giant BAE Systems, which is a less than positive sign for him genuinely wanting to reduce arms sales.[65]

Since the leadership campaign, he hasn't even talked about the "Prevention of Military Intervention Act", so we can assume it's gone.

All these pledges are basically unfalsifiable while Starmer is not prime minister and/or hasn't had to deal with the prospect of any British military action, and signs of where he is in terms of his public statements and behaviour have been mixed. As such, we can't draw many firm conclusions unless the situation changes.

National Policy Platform says: Absolutely no mention of a "Prevention of Military Intervention Act". There's a commitment to "establish[ing] a new arms export regime that is truly transparent, free from arbitrary judgements and committed to upholding international law", which is a bit dubious. Most of the rest of this, as above, is not assessable unless Starmer is literally Prime Minister.

Overall verdict: Pledges not assessable

Pledge 5: Common ownership[edit]

Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.

This is the pledge that's caused the most friction and the one Starmer has most clearly broken.

He has walked back his clear pledge for renationalisation of energy and water. He chalks this up to post-COVID debt levels and a need to be fiscally responsible. Instead, he has promised to change the existing markets and regulation of them. He was more equivocal on mail, claiming that it's "hard to see how you can nationalise within the fiscal rules", glossing over that the fiscal rules are something he put in place.[66] As of February 2023, this pledge is now confirmed to be completely dead.[67]

Starmer had sent mixed signals as to whether he will renationalise railways as promised. He has said that he's committed to renationalising rail, but only because public entities already own most of it anyway so it doesn't really matter.[66] But he's also said that he won't do it at all because it doesn't fit within Labour's fiscal rules.[68] Keen-eyed readers will notice that the citations on these points are literally one day apart; a truly egregious flip-flop. However, the 2023 draft National Policy Platform does commit to bringing rail contracts under public ownership as they expire, so that's nice.

Starmer had promised to create a new publicly owned energy company, "Great British Energy".[69] Labour's own page on their website is incredibly vague about what this company will actually do, describing it simply as a "new publicly-owned clean energy company".[70] Most people would see "energy company" and think that it would be either a generator of energy, a supplier of it to homes and businesses, or both. However in actuality, GB Energy would not be a supplier at all, and would be simply an investment firm, with the aim being to attract private investment. As such any "public ownership" would be, at best, temporary, and the party's spokesperson replied that there would be absolutely no nationalisation of any existing firms at all when a Guardian journalist asked.[71][72] As such there will be no fundamental change to Britain's current energy markets under Starmer, with no real "common ownership of ... energy" to speak of, and the talk of a "publicly-owned clean energy company" is a significant bit of misdirection.

"End outsourcing in our NHS" does not overlap with Wes Streeting's aforementioned desire to bring private provision into the NHS.[58]

In short, Starmer has walked back his pledges on common ownership so drastically it is safe to consider them broken. Very little remains that he has not expressly contradicted and said he won't do.

National Policy Platform says: Rail will be renationalised by franchises being taken back into public ownership as contracts expire (something actually of a piece with Corbyn-era policy). But there's no mention of mail, energy or water nationalisation (beyond the aforementioned Great British Energy, which as noted isn't really anything like what the pledge would imply). Outsourcing in the NHS is explicitly promised (boo) but there's a fairly vague commitment to "bring about the biggest wave of insourcing of public services in a generation" alongside a review of existing outsourcing arrangements, either of which could mean - or result in - anything. A mixed bag.

Overall verdict: Pledges mostly broken

Pledge 6: Defend migrants' rights[edit]

Full voting rights for EU nationals. Defend free movement as we leave the EU. An immigration system based on compassion and dignity. End indefinite detention and call for the closure of centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

Starmer had stopped talking about voting rights for EU nationals as soon as the leadership campaign was over, but then popped up again in May 2023 to say he thought it was a good idea in principle, stopping short of a full commitment.[73]

The "defend free movement" pledge was weaselly worded, since Britain was clearly going to leave the EU at the end of January 2020 no matter what, under the Conservatives' negotiated terms, and the leadership ballot to succeed Corbyn had yet to happen, meaning this is a pledge Starmer could never keep. But we don't even need to rely on this to consider the pledge broken; Starmer has said on the record that freedom of movement is gone, never coming back, and is a "red line" in any hypothetical negotiations with the EU.[74]

Starmer has done nothing in particular to promote compassionate immigration policy, with little to say on safe routes for asylum or asylum in general other than that the Conservatives aren't processing applications quickly enough, while also insisting that too many asylum seekers in general are coming.[75] He's said nothing about relaxing the Tories' present immigration controls, instead saying that hiring of overseas businesses would become conditional on a requirement to invest in training in the UK.[65] He's said nothing on family visas since becoming leader, either.

His proposed alternative to indefinitely detaining asylum seekers is GPS-tagging them.[76] You know, like is done with convicted criminals. Very compassionate!

He did at least oppose the government's stupid and cruel plan to reroute all asylum seekers to Rwanda, which he openly called "immoral".[77] But, frankly, that should be the bare minimum requirement for anyone, and the rest of his statements outweigh this.

The gist from what Starmer has said and done since the leadership contest is that, under Labour as under the Tories, immigration to the UK will still be selective, expensive, and subject to complex administrative procedures. People seeking refuge will still be turned away if at all possible and, if they can't be turned away at the border, subject to effective criminalisation (if not actual detention) while they wait for a decision; they might just have a shorter wait between when they arrive in the country and when an agent of the UK deems them not its problem. This is clearly not the spirit of what he pledged during the leadership contest, and it would take some severe logical contortion to claim otherwise.

National Policy Platform says: No mention at all of voting rights for EU nationals. Free movement is explicitly said to not be coming back. There's no concrete talk of immigration except saying that they'll "sort out the points-based immigration system", which could mean anything - and all talk of immigration has nothing to do with "compassion and dignity" but instead just work visas. Family visas aren't mentioned at all. Neither is the end of indefinite detention or the closure of detention centres. This is still categorically broken.

Overall verdict: Pledges broken

Pledge 7: Strengthen workers’ rights and trade unions[edit]

Work shoulder to shoulder with trade unions to stand up for working people, tackle insecure work and low pay. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Oppose Tory attacks on the right to take industrial action and the weakening of workplace rights.

While this is actually the pledge that Starmer has come closest to keeping in full, the unions would disagree with a hearty: Lmao lol.

In the face of a wave of industrial action not seen for decades, across multiple public services, in response to over a decade of worsening conditions and pay, Starmer has refused despite being pressed multiple times to endorse these strikes, or even the possibility of strike action, at all.[78] He also, for quite a long time, expressly forbade Labour frontbenchers from attending union picket lines, before he was forced to climb down by his own MPs' disquiet[79] and the fact that many MPs simply ignored him.[80] His position on the strikes in general has been equivocal, and he has also called the pay demands of striking nurses (who have seen their incomes drop up to 20% in real terms since the Tories got in in 2010) "unaffordable".[81]

Teachers, who have seen their salaries fall by 13% in real terms since 2010 against average wage rises of 2% across the whole economy,[82] rejected by 98% to 2% a pay offer from the government of a 4.5% pay rise;[83] Starmer's response when asked was to express "disappointment" in both sides for not "compromising" and in the unions for refusing the pay offer, and to avoid the question on strike action.[84] It's abundantly clear that there is absolutely no issue on which Starmer wishes to be seen as siding with trade unions, making a mockery of his pledge to want to work "shoulder to shoulder" with them.

Unite the Union is apparently less than pleased with Starmer, having reduced the number of affiliates it offers to the Labour Party and redirected funding from the party to elsewhere within the labour movement. Unite is the second largest trade union in the UK and Labour's biggest single donor.[85] The Fire Brigade Union and ASLEF (who represent train drivers) both came close to disaffiliating from the party totally, something of a nuclear option given the party's supposed status as the representation of workers in Parliament.

On the positive side, though, the Labour Party has actually kept most of the rest of this pledge. A green paper released in September 2021 confirmed that the party will repeal the Trade Union Act 2016.[86] The same green paper also states that the party will ban zero-hours contracts, remove the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims, and much else besides; all good stuff that will clearly help with low pay and poor conditions, keeping that part of the pledge. Starmer has also pledged to repeal any new anti-strike laws passed,[87], keeping the pledge to oppose Tory clampdowns on the right to strike.

As a result, this pledge is the only one that we can consider to be even mostly honoured. The party's policy on employment rights is actually genuinely good, but it's a shame that its approach to trade unions and the public service workers striking for their rights is so weaksauce; otherwise this would be an unqualified win for Starmer.

National Policy Platform says: In terms of actual policy commitments: 10/10, no notes. The platform says Labour will do everything Starmer promised to do and then some. Really actually very good stuff!... is what we said before Labour were subsequently reported to be rowing back on most of it. Oh. Never mind, then.[88]

Overall verdict: Pledges broken

Pledge 8: Radical devolution of power, wealth and opportunity[edit]

Push power, wealth and opportunity away from Whitehall. A federal system to devolve powers – including through regional investment banks and control over regional industrial strategy. Abolish the House of Lords – replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations.

Like with so many other things, Starmer has not talked about federalism since the leadership campaign, so we can assume it's dead. The same goes for local control over regional industrial strategy.

To his credit, though, as recently as December 2022, Starmer has talked about devolving power over things such as skills and transport, and has again floated the concept of regional investment banks, so that pledge still seems to be on the agenda.[89] However, this would not come with any additional tax-raising powers for regional and local authorities, and Starmer has since said that he won't bring out the "big government chequebook" to pay for it even as he talks about decentralisation of power[90] and plans to freeze council tax as well.[91] All these raise serious questions about who will pay for this, and how, if Labour isn't proposing to let anyone be taxed or borrow any money to do so.

After initially refusing to commit to the abolition of the House of Lords,[92] Starmer did come out and say he'd abolish the Lords in his first mandate as PM.[93] Just a week later, though, after some initial vagueness[89] he said he'd want to do it "in the long run",[94] after early reports that he would water abolition down into reform after a row with Gordon Brown.[95] With this much flip-flopping going on, it's really difficult to take this at face value or assume that he would keep the pledge as PM.

Furthermore, Starmer's commitment to devolution of power is so strong that he immediately said he didn't support a Scottish law on trans rights that his own party at Holyrood helped pass, nor did he rule out helping the Westminster government block it.[96] Given the size of their majority in the Commons, the Conservatives wouldn't even need Labour's assistance. In the event, he whipped the Parliamentary Labour Party to abstain on the motion to block the law, with only eleven MPs voting against it, all as noted earlier, enabling it to pass by 318 votes to seventy-one.

Starmer has kept some of his pledges, specifically those around localising power, although doubts remain regarding how viable these will be given the lack of promised funding for them. Meanwhile, he has not talked about others, like federalism, since he first made them, or has said so many contradictory things in close succession that it's difficult to give him that much credit. His actions with regard to overruling Holyrood on trans rights also undermine his credibility on the matter of devolution of power from the centre.

National Policy Platform says: No mention at all of federalism, but there is a commitment to greater devolution to regions, including a very vaguely-described "Take Back Control Act", which matches the spirit of devolution if not the letter. Lords abolition is in there, but there isn't any mention of regional investment banks or of regional industrial strategy. A mixed bag.

Overall verdict: Pledges partly kept, mostly broken

Pledge 9: Equality[edit]

Pull down obstacles that limit opportunities and talent. We are the party of the Equal Pay Act, Sure Start, BAME representation and the abolition of Section 28 – we must build on that for a new decade.

This is vague and unfalsifiable, with no firm commitments, so we can only really judge Starmer by his actions as leader. They're terrible, with a drastic drop-off in early 2023 as Starmer progressed to espousing full-on transphobia on multiple occasions, even reversing course on express promises.

Starmer has gone from promising greater rights for trans people, to tolerating transphobia, to indulging transphobia, and most recently directly espousing transphobia while reversing his promises for more trans rights, all for directly stated electoral reasons. More on that appears in the dedicated section above, which was previously part of this one but kept getting longer to the point it needed to be moved.

Within the party, the emergence of reports of racist and sexist bullying (along with allegations that the right of the party had deliberately acted to try to make Labour lose elections during the Corbyn period) led to the Forde Inquiry,[note 14] whose results took two and a half years to appear. Starmer apologised, and the party published the report, along with 165 recommendations that stem from it and apologies from both Starmer and Labour's general secretary, David Evans ... albeit only in December 2022, several months after its July release.[97] BAME representatives, in return, expressed discontent with the party's response and apparent lack of urgency.[98] The author of the report himself has said that Labour still operates a "hierarchy of racism", in which it treats anti-Black racism and Islamophobia as less problematic than antisemitism (not that anybody with a moral compass should accept any of those!).[99]

Starmer's pledge here, to the extent it can be judged at all, can be judged by his actions as leader. They are abysmal and progressively getting worse as the party apparently doubles down on transphobia to try to court socially conservative voters. He has made zero pronouncements on equalities legislation or ways in which he would "build on" this or expand it that remain intact today. The party's response to a detailed report of widespread racist bullying in the party has been panned by many, including BAME Labour representatives and the author of that report, as insufficient. Inasmuch as this pledge means anything, Starmer has thoroughly broken its spirit.

National Policy Platform says: Quite a bit on equalities, but as above there's no real falsifiable promises to assess against it.

Overall verdict: Pledges categorically broken by any relevant measuring stick

Pledge 10: Effective opposition to the Tories[edit]

Forensic, effective opposition to the Tories in Parliament – linked up to our mass membership and a professional election operation. Never lose sight of the votes ‘lent’ to the Tories in 2019. Unite our party, promote pluralism and improve our culture. Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. Maintain our collective links with the unions.

This is another extremely subjective claim. How do you judge whether an opposition is "forensic" or "effective"?

For much of 2020, immediately after he became leader during the COVID-19 pandemic, Starmer walked in lockstep with then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and repeatedly pulled punches, essentially endorsing whatever the government did, as a deliberate strategy. Although echoing Johnson's line that "schools are safe", in the middle of a pandemic with no vaccine available, was a bit odd.[100] As was not saying anything about, then being happily pictured taking advantage of,[101] Rishi Sunak's catastrophically stupid "Eat Out to Help OutWikipedia" wheeze where the government actively paid people to go and mingle with others in the middle of a pandemic, six months before any widespread vaccination could have taken place. However, we can be fair to him and say this was a bit of an odd situation overall and something that would have wrongfooted any opposition leader.

What's a bit less defensible is directing his party to abstain on a bill that would permit undercover police to break the law, the so-called "spy cops" bill, as opposed to actually opposing it—an instruction that 34 of his own MPs defied.[102] It's very difficult to see how this could be construed as "effective opposition". See also Starmer's tacit endorsement of the blocking of a trans rights law in Scotland. See also his refusal to back strikes in public services, or the pay offers the workers want. See also how he welcomed an MP crossing the floor from the Tories and made him a Labour whip less than a year later.

And here's how well "uniting our party" is going: Starmer's Labour has proscribed numerous groups such as Socialist Appeal, all of which tend towards the left wing of the party, and then used these proscriptions to expel Labour local leaders retroactively for such awful crimes as liking one of their Facebook posts, in which they celebrate people joining the Labour Party.[103]

The party is more bitterly fractious than ever, with the only thing keeping a lid on it being deliberate marginalisation of its left flank. His shadow cabinet is staffed almost entirely by the Labour right with a couple of token soft lefties, with some of the worst offenders being healthcare privatisation crank Wes Streeting and deficit hawk Rachel Reeves as two of his closest allies. Noted manifestation of Satan Peter Mandelson seems happy with the direction the party is going, which is probably a bad sign.[104] As of February 2023, Starmer has openly told people who don't like his leadership of the party to leave it, so we can consider party unity to be well down his priority list ... unless they're uniting behind him.[105] He's also bragged about forcing out both the party's previous (theoretically neutral) general secretary and its former leader in Scotland (Jennie Formby and Richard Leonard respectively), both of whom were on the left of the party, backed Jeremy Corbyn, and were succeeded by factional allies of his (David Evans and Anas Sarwar).[106]

Starmer has done nothing concrete to deal antisemitism within the party since becoming leader. His actions, somewhat tautologically, appear to be limited to him saying a few times that he's dealt with antisemitism within the party and that the party has changed. That is not simply untrue, but impossible, unless you actually consider Corbyn to be the personification of all antisemitism and his losing the whip (as well as the proscription of a few groups supportive of him) to constitute its eradication. (There is a more regrettable history of antisemitism that has bled into the left[107] as well as the right.) The idea that all it takes to solve the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party is to exclude Corbyn is simply bonkers,[note 15] but it's the only way to take these statements at face value.

Unions, as noted above, are de-emphasising their links with Labour, and some are making noises about pulling funding or affiliation. It remains to be seen how this will shake out.

Of course, there's another way in which we can judge "effective opposition", and one which many would argue is all that ultimately matters: whether there's a chance that Labour will enter office. And Labour, as of writingWikipedia, has a commanding polling lead over the Tories, hovering around 45–50% while the Tories range between 25–30%. This has narrowed a bit now that Rishi Sunak has actually deigned to appear and say he's going to do something about the country being on its arse, but Labour are still comfortably ahead.

The result is that every serious commentator now agrees that barring some catastrophic screw-up by Labour, and/or a massive reversal of fortunes for the Conservatives, Labour is going to form the next government and Starmer will be prime minister by 2025, likely with an absolutely stonking majority and with the possibility of the Conservatives being reduced to a rump. How much of this can be credited to Starmer, and how much to an imbecile exploding the economy for a laugh after another imbecile partied while letting 100,000 people die of a pandemic disease amidst a backdrop of everyone being cold, skint and miserable, before a third imbecile basically turned up, said "I'm Prime Minister now", and then ran and hid is very debatable. Even so, Starmer's supporters would argue that his lack of the truly epic levels of baggage his predecessor held have made the party seem more tolerable as a "get the bastards out"-type vote. There are, in all fairness, good arguments either way on this point.

Basically, this is another very subjective pledge, and whether you think Starmer has kept it depends ultimately on your priorities and what you want from Labour. A lot of people would have serious issue with a lot of Starmer's approach, primarily the people who Starmer and his allies are—apparently deliberately—marginalising within the party. Conversely, the people who never liked all those icky lefties in the party, or who didn't like all that nationalisation bollocks in the first place, are very pleased. More prosaically, those who would consider it a greater priority to be in office to get the Conservatives out than to keep promises have good reason to be overjoyed, while those who want Labour in office so as to implement those promises are feeling much less so.

National Policy Platform says: nothing that we can assess this pledge against!

Overall verdict: Pledge unfalsifiable and entirely subjective

Starmer on Starmer's pledges[edit]

If voters don't compromise most of their cherished principles, they risk ending up with a leader who doesn’t share most of their cherished principles.

Every so often, members of the media do ask Starmer about his pledges and whether he has gone back on them, typically whenever he discusses new Labour policies. The Conservative Party also tries to portray these as "flip-flops", as an attempt to persuade voters that he's untrustworthy and will basically just say whatever he thinks will get him elected.[note 16]

For his part, when directly asked on the BBC, Starmer has said the following, and has typically used similar words every time:

So far as the pledges when I ran for leader are concerned, they are important statements of value of principle. And they haven’t all been abandoned by any stretch of the imagination. But what I have had to do is adapt some of them to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Since I ran for leader, we’ve had Covid, we’ve had the conflict in Ukraine, we’ve had a government that has done huge damage to our economy. Everybody recognises that.[67]

While a reasonable person might grant him the out of "changing circumstances", if thought about for more than a few minutes it all starts to fall over:

  • The invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022, nearly two years after Starmer became leader and well after people started picking up his abandonment of his pledges, so cannot be considered causally related to him doing so.
  • COVID-19 first arrived in the UK and was confirmed to be spreading in earnest in January 2020, well before voting started in the leadership contest. If the pandemic was going to impact the delivery of his pledges so strongly, ought he not to have used a tad more caution before making them?
  • He justified his abandonment of his pledge to renationalise energy supply by saying that it would cost a lot of money. Would that not have been glaringly obvious at the time? If it's that unjustifiably expensive a pledge, why make it?
  • The public finances aren't that dismal. Public debt is 17.6% higher than it was at the end of 2019, but it's falling.[109] The government even ran a surplus in January 2023, something nobody really expected.[110] In that context, it's not clear precisely what makes his pledges unaffordable—or what is materially so different about circumstances that pledges that were commonsensical in April 2020 have become so bank-breakingly pricey.
  • Similarly, the price tags of many of these pledges will not have changed much from the point at which they were made. In some cases they will have lessened due to assets devaluing. In others, there are enough crises going on that either you pay to improve public services now or they will continue their dismal performance and backslide even further, so not investing the money will just mean they get worse and it'll cost even more to improve them in the future.
  • It's also a given—hopefully axiomatic, even—that Labour thinks that Conservative economic policy is bad and harmful, so it rings exceptionally hollow when the party's chief spokesperson justifies not implementing promises that represent such a break from the Conservative way of governing on the grounds that Conservative economic policies are bad and harmful. It's also the same dumb "last Labour government" schtick that David Cameron and his cronies and enablers used to justify austerity, making it feel a lot like Starmer is getting his excuses in early.
  • It also doesn't make sense to cite turbulent economic times as a reason to rein in spending. Aside from implicitly justifying Cameron's austerity logic, which had little economic backing at the time and whose legacy has only got worse as time goes on, it's pretty settled economics that in times of economic downturn the government should counter-cyclically spend to stimulate the economy.[note 17] Adherents to the more heterodox Modern Monetary Theory wouldn't even recognise Starmer's reasoning as being close to valid.
  • He can't blame Ukraine or COVID for his tolerating (much less parroting) transphobic behaviour by his MPs, or his being divisive in his party, or for not defending free movement, or for no longer wanting to introduce a Clean Air Act, or for not standing in solidarity with striking public workers, or for wanting to GPS-tag asylum seekers, or for abandoning his pretense of supporting federalism, or for not wanting to renationalise crucial infrastructure, or for backing away from cracking down on tax evasion, or for sleeping on action against bigotry, or for ditching the idea of preventative health care. Despite being totally free to uphold the pledges related to these issues, he broke them.

Starmer has also given other, far more circular reasoning as justification for why people should trust him: he's said that none of his pledges would become reality if Labour didn't win an election.[111] But there are three key issues with this:

  1. It assumes that if he honoured the pledges, it would cause Labour to lose an election. (Again, that means that he shouldn't have made them in the first place.)
  2. If he ditches all the pledges, he will not lift a finger to make them happen even if Labour does win an election.
  3. If he's ditching the pledges for electoral reasons, then he can't also claim it's only circumstances forcing his hand and he really wants to do all this lovely progressive stuff.

In short, his accounting does not add up. These excuses are just that, and ring very hollow, and he will not or cannot just tell the truth: he has ditched the pledges and does not intend to honour them because he doesn't see them as valid or things for which he's willing to risk his reputation, thus rendering his claim to principles a lie. It's a break with the Corbyn era of a rather bad nature.

All this said, it is, in some sense, fair to say that Starmer has not yet been elected, and so has not necessarily been able to implement his pledges even hypothetically. It's certainly possible that his breaking of them since the leadership election is all kayfabe for (public) electoral reasons, and that he truly intends to keep them once elected. The problem here is that there is not (and cannot be any) evidence for this, and it requires those who support the pledges or the political direction they hint at to take a huge leap of faith, voting for a party with a leader who outwardly gives every impression of not wanting to honour them in the hope that, while someone is being lied to, it isn't them.

Bullshit and lies regarding Starmer[edit]

Starmer has attracted fewer and less nonsensical attacks than his predecessor; but Britain's famously scrupulous and fair media, as well as some of his political opponents, have still given it a good go.

No, he didn't let Savile off[edit]

Consistent conspiracy theories have flown around about Starmer supposedly being the individual responsible for not prosecuting the (now) notorious sex offender Jimmy Savile during this period. These theories are unambiguously false: while Starmer led the DPP at the time, he was not the prosecutor in charge of Savile's case, he wasn't even close to the decision, he commissioned an investigation into the matter after it came to light, and following this he apologised for the CPS' shortcomings.[112] This didn't stop noted lying shit Boris Johnson from repeating this utterly baseless theory in Parliament as an exceptionally cheap means of distracting from his own flaws, before being forced to backtrack because it was entirely untrue.[113]

Keir Starmer, donkey aficionado[edit]

For some reason, possibly that it's a morally irredeemable rag, the Daily Mail decided one day that it was a sin for Starmer to own and maintain a field used as a donkey sanctuary, to enable his (now deceased) mother to look at donkeys. Their reasoning for this (one of the most inoffensive things a human being could do) being evil is apparently that houses could be built on the land instead, raising its putative value to £10 million. This is perfectly reasonable, because as we all know the Daily Mail is a keen supporter of housing developments in rural communities.[114] This is especially silly because the land is in the UK's Green BeltWikipedia, meaning it couldn't be built on in any event.

Typically, the Mail wasn't happy when he sold it for £400,000 (a solid 96% discount on the Mail's estimate) either, and for some reason seemed to want to imply that he'd invited travellers to come and occupy land adjacent to it afterwards.[115]

Trilateral Commission[edit]

Starmer is a member of the Trilateral Commission.[116] This has raised eyebrows among the party's left, somewhat reasonably since the Commission is not a socialist organisation, but it has also predictably sent some of the usual suspects completely apeshit, claiming (usually in the same breath as the nonsense claims about Savile) that it means Starmer has concrete links with Jeffrey Epstein, something which there is no evidence for whatsoever.

2011 riots response[edit]

It's been claimed by some on the left (e.g., Libcom[117]) that Starmer, who was Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of the 2011 England riots, was responsible for disproportionately harsh penalties being meted out to looters, and in particular that he ran "all night courts". These claims aren't true and don't make any sense if one has even a minimal understanding of the British criminal justice system.

That Starmer supposedly ran "all night courts" is obvious nonsense on the face of it: the Crown Prosecution Service that he headed does not run courts (courts in England are run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service, a different central government agency) and has no authority to tell courts to do anything at all. The Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes people, that is, it puts them forward to be tried by the courts and provides evidence for the same; the courts then decide whether someone is guilty or not and what sentence is applicable if they are found guilty. The closest there is to truth in this claim is that Starmer attended a court at 4 a.m. to laud the operation of all-night courts,[118] but it wasn't in his power to make these things happen; at most he could have allocated resources so that prosecutors were available to put the CPS' case forward.

Similarly, the evidence does not support the notion that Starmer personally pushed for harsh sentences for rioters, and Starmer's own official statement that he thought trying suspects quickly was more important a deterrent than sentencing them harshly directly contradicts it.[119] Likewise, he also said at the time that he opposed and was concerned about rioters being treated any more harshly than any other offender.[120] It would, in any event, not have been within his power to enforce these except on a very tenuous level.

In general, while there are many fair criticisms of Starmer over his time as DPP and his general approach to criminal justice issues since becoming leader, this one is not, and others are based on a misunderstanding (or non-acknowledgment) of the separation between and different roles of the CPS, the police and the courts.


  1. Starmer reassigned Long-Bailey from shadow secretary of state for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (her last position under Corbyn) to shadow secretary of state for Education. He also brought Nandy back into the shadow cabinet as shadow Foreign and Commonwealth secretary after a nearly four-year hiatus she took after voting no confidence in Corbyn's leadership after the Brexit referendum.
  2. Eighty-seven, in fact, when you consider that seven MPs from Northern Ireland were elected for Sinn Féin, which has a policy of not being in Westminster.
  3. Most likely correct, given how Corbyn overestimated his reach and had people as incompetent as Diane Abbott in his shadow cabinet. However, the party was still sabotaged from within.
  4. And the first for Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, too, but few people cared about him.
  5. It's rare for an opposition party to lose council seats and for the sitting government to gain them like this.
  6. See the "Opinion polling for the next United Kingdom general election" page on Wikipedia.
  7. All but one of those MPs, Ben Bradshaw, was a member of the leftist Socialist Campaign Group.[35]
  8. This isn't even a factually correct statement of what public opinion is like. A host of polls show that women consistently support trans rights (and to a greater degree than men), with majorities of women agreeing that a person should be able to self-identify and a plurality agreeing that a trans woman is a woman.[40]
  9. Indeed, it makes it worse, because it would mean that he knows how ludicrous and disproportionate the ginned-up culture war over trans people is, but still enthusiastically participates in it, and on the regressive side.
  10. So take this with the pinch of salt that implies—although Harwood, to his credit, is generally great on LGBT issues.
  11. Most of us at RationalWiki are big fans of social liberalism and environmentalism. We are more divided on economics.
  12. Okay, Vladimir Putin's. There are some Russian dissidents brave enough to oppose that war.
  13. There's also the slightly inconvenient fact that the biggest example of an "illegal war" in recent times, the Iraq War, was deemed legal by the (Labour) government of the day, and there was no clear and binding legal ruling otherwise at the time. This leaves an obvious loophole where all Starmer has to do is say that a war will be legal and he can wage one. That said, this is clearly hypothetical too—Starmer might mean this in the spirit said, we just can't assess it either way.
  14. Named after its chairman, lawyer Martin Forde, who is also the author of its final report.
  15. And also something that, as many pointed out well before Starmer was leader, anyone who is keen to ensure that antisemitism in Labour is treated as the actually harmful and toxic bigotry that it is, rather than an excuse for removing political opposition, should desperately want to avoid the perception of. Treating Corbyn as synonymous with antisemitism does nothing to solve any actual antisemitism but does give cover to people who have anti-Jewish views, while pissing off other people who resented antisemitism and every other form of racism being used as a factional weapon per the Forde Report.
  16. Insert Spiderman_pointing_at_spiderman.jpg here.
  17. It seldom reduces spending during periods of economic expansion, as Keynesians also prescribe.


  1. For the Many, Not the Few, Labour Party
  2. A fight to the death: stopping the death penalty in Taiwan The Guardian 3 October 2016
  3. Keir Starmer: 25 years of coverage in The Lawyer The Lawyer 4 April 2020
  4. Starmer comes under fire from Long-Bailey and Nandy over Brexit The Guardian 25 February 2020
  5. Labour leadership race: is 'comfort blanket' Keir Starmer too safe? The Guardian 3 January 2020
  6. New Labour leader Keir Starmer vows to lead party into 'new era' BBC News 4 April 2020
  7. Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey sacked in anti-Semitism row BBC News 25 June 2020
  8. UK's Labour ties with Conservatives for first time since 2019, YouGov poll finds Reuters 19 September 2020
  9. I don't just want all our children back in school, I expect it. No ifs, no buts: Labour's leader SIR KEIR STARMER writes in response after Boris Johnson said the return was a 'moral duty' MailOnline 15 August 2020
  10. Keir Starmer: Labour must 'get serious about winning' BBC News 22 September 2020
  11. Three Labour MPs lose roles after voting against overseas operations bill The Guardian 23 September 2020
  12. Labour suspends Jeremy Corbyn over EHRC report comments The Guardian 29 October 2020
  15. Keir Starmer admits Labour lost voters’ trust and takes ‘full responsibility’ for election debacle, MSN
  16. Keir Starmer vows all-new Labour manifesto and economic offer, MSN
  17. Keir Starmer backs excluding trans women from some ‘women-only spaces’, amid Labour row
  18. [1]
  19. 19.0 19.1 Keir Starmer Indicates He Will Ditch Leadership Pledge To Scrap Tuition Fees, Huffington Post, 15 January 2023
  20. Westminster block on Scotland’s gender recognition bill may be gift to the SNP, The Guardian, 17 January 2023
  21. Jeremy Corbyn will not be Labour candidate at next election, says Starmer, The Guardian, 15 February 2023
  22. Keir Starmer condemned for meeting with anti-LGBTQ+ pastor over Easter weekend… again, PinkNews, 11 April 2023
  23. . 11 April 2023
  24. 10 April 2023
  25. 9 April 2023
  27. [2], The Guardian, 9h June 2023
  28. jrc1921 on Twitter, July 16 2023
  29. 29.0 29.1 Tom Harwood on Twitter, 13 April 2023: LOTO's clear U-turns on the issue have led to what a senior source in LGBT Labour has told me are genuine safety concerns for members at pride events. The Labour brand has become that toxic within the community. Many feel like the party's leadership is turning its back on them.
  30. Labour leadership contenders split over trans group pledge card, The Guardian, 13 February 2020
  31. Labour’s Keir Starmer doubles down on vow to reform Gender Recognition Act and introduce self-ID for trans people, PinkNews, 10 June 2021
  32. It's Time for Real Change, Labour Party, p.68
  33. UK could slip backwards on LGBT rights, Labour leader Keir Starmer warns, ITV, 19 October 2022
  34. Starmer suggests SNP and Tories both exploiting gender recognition bill for political advantage, The Guardian, 16 January 2023
  35. Standing Order No. 24 debate: section 35 of the Scotland Act, UK Parliament, 17 January 2023
  36. Labour groups urge party to withdraw whip from Rosie Duffield MP, LabourList, 27 October 2022
  37. The Labour Party has a woman problem, UnHerd 20 January 2023.
  38. Labour must discuss gender with ‘respect’, says Keir Starmer, The Guardian, 23 January 2023
  39. Sir Keir Starmer signals climbdown on Labour’s transgender stance, Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2023
  40. Where does the British public stand on transgender rights?, YouGov, 16 July 2020
  41. Keir Starmer: Trans rights can’t override women’s rights, The Times, April 1 2023
  42. 42.0 42.1 Starmer accuses Tories of 'lost decade' for child protection because they ignored mandatory reporting recommendation, The Guardian, April 3 2023
  43. Keir Starmer changes his mind on trans children, UnHerd, 2 November 2022
  44. Keeping children safe in education 2022, Department for Education, 1 September 2022
  45. Labour welcomes UK Equality Act review, The Times, 5 April 2023
  46. Tom Harwood on Twitter, 13 April 2023: And I've been leaked the latest Labour Part Policy Handbook - which reveals the party is no longer committed to reforming the GRA to introduce self ID, but instead to only 'build a consensus' on the issue.
  47. Tom Harwood on Twitter, 13 April 2023: What's more, I'm told that Starmer was meant to tweet the commitment, and yet a person in his office vetoed it last minute. Starmer sent no tweet about Labour's trans policies on Transgender Day of Visibility last month.
  48. 'A secret row is exploding within Labour over trans rights and Keir Starmer needs to get a grip fast' - analysis by Tom Harwood, GB News, 13 April 2023
  49. Keir Starmer - My Pledges To You
  50. Revealed: Full draft policy platform that could form 2024 Labour manifesto, Tom Belger, Morgan Jones and Katie Neame, LabourList, 11 May 2023
  51. Keir Starmer pushes Boris Johnson to rule out corporation tax rise, City AM, 24 February 2021
  52. Keir Starmer vows to reinstate top rate of income tax to fund public services, The Guardian, 25 September 2022
  53. For Starmerites, apostasy on ‘tax and spend’ is central to the creed, Josh Self,, 2 May 2023
  54. Keir Starmer attacks ‘weak’ Rishi Sunak over non-dom tax breaks, The Guardian, 23 November 2022
  55. No plans to increase capital gains tax, Labour says, BBC, 30 March 2023
  56. EXCLUSIVE: Labour pledge to replace Universal Credit with new name to end the 'stigma', The Mirror, 23 August 2021
  57. Benefit sanctions will continue under Labour as party 'reforms' Universal Credit, The Mirror, 10 January 2023
  58. 58.0 58.1 I don’t want working class people in pain: so I’d use private hospitals to bolster the NHS, Wes Streeting in The Guardian, 8 December 2022
  59. Wes Streeting claims BMA ‘hostile’ towards Labour’s NHS plans, The Guardian, 11 December 2022
  60. Labour to ditch its promise to abolish tuition fees in England, The Guardian, 2 May 2023
  61. Keir Starmer unveils green growth plan to counter Liz Truss’s tax cuts, The Guardian, 24 September 2022
  62. Anger from Labour activists after Green New Deal motion blocked, The Independent, 16 September 2021
  63. Rachel Reeves waters down Labour £28bn green projects pledge, BBC, 9 June 2023
  64. Keir Starmer attacks 'unconscionable' cut in aid to Yemen, The Guardian, 3 March 2021
  65. 65.0 65.1 Keir Starmer tells firms to 'help' Britain off its 'immigration dependency', The Mirror, 22 November 2022
  66. 66.0 66.1 Starmer blames retreat from nationalisation pledge on post-pandemic debt, The National, 26 July 2022
  67. 67.0 67.1 Starmer says he's still guided 10 leadership campaign pledges - but defends dropping energy renationalisation promise, The Guardian, 23 February 2023.
  68. Starmer U-turns on leadership election pledge to renationalise railways, Sky News, July 25 2022
  69. Labour will launch publicly owned Great British Energy, Starmer vows, The Guardian, 27 September 2022
  70. Labour's plan for GB Energy
  71. Labour rules out supplier role for new public energy company, Utility Week
  72. Great British Energy: what is it, what would it do and how would it be funded?, The Guardian, 27 September 2022
  73. Keir Starmer says it ‘feels wrong’ EU citizens living in UK can’t vote, The Guardian, 15 May 2023
  74. Keir Starmer rules out return of free movement between Britain and EU, The Guardian, 27 November 2022
  75. 'Get a grip' on migrant crisis, Sir Keir Starmer tells Rishi Sunak at PMQs, Sky News, 2 November 2022
  76. Keir Starmer says there is a case for GPS tagging some asylum seekers, The Independent, 5 December 2022
  77. Keir Starmer promises Labour would end 'immoral' Rwanda deportation policy, The Herald, 12 August 2022
  78. Keir Starmer repeatedly refuses to back striking workers, The Guardian, 6 October 2022
  79. Starmer urged to clarify picket line ban as MPs are pressed to back strikers, The Guardian, 2 August 2022
  80. Keir Starmer Facing Leadership Crisis Over Labour Frontbenchers Picket Lines Ban, Huffington Post, 7 August 2022
  81. Sir Keir Starmer says 19% pay rise for nurses is 'unaffordable' as he pleas for last-ditch talks to stop strikes, LBC, 12 December 2022
  82. Teachers’ pay cut by £6,600 since 2010, says Institute for Fiscal Studies, The Guardian, 12 January 2023
  83. [ Strong rejection of pay offer in England shows teachers’ fury, says union], The Guardian, 3 April 2023
  84. Strikes: Keir Starmer 'disappointed' teachers have rejected government's latest pay offer, Sky News, 3 April 2023
  85. Unite cuts Labour affiliation in move to nurture emerging talent, Unite the Union, 7 October 2020
  86. Employment Rights Green Paper
  87. Sir Keir Starmer pledges to repeal any new anti-strike laws in first big speech of the year - as rail union warns about legislation, Sky News, 5 January 2023
  88. Labour rows back on workers’ rights to blunt Tory ‘anti-business’ claims, Financial Times, 17 August 2023
  89. 89.0 89.1 Labour to set out plans for devolving UK economic powers, Financial Times, 4 December 2022
  90. Labour will not open ‘big government chequebook’, Starmer to say, The Guardian, 4 January 2023
  91. Labour government would freeze council tax, says Sir Keir Starmer, Sky News, 30 March 2023
  92. Keir Starmer abandons pledge to abolish House of Lords, The Independent, 7 November 2021
  93. Sir Keir Starmer pledges to abolish House of Lords in first term as prime minister, Sky News, 5 December 2022
  94. Sir Keir says he "doesn't want to quarrel" with the fact there are very good peers with expertise. Labour leader says he wants to abolish the Lords in the "long run". *last week's policy announcement kicked into the long grass?, Theo Usherwood on Twitter, 12 December 2022
  95. Sir Keir Starmer and Gordon Brown heading for clash over House of Lords abolition, The Times, 3 December 2022
  96. How can the UK Government block Scotland's gender reforms?, STV News, 17 January 2023
  97. The Forde Report, Labour Party
  98. Labour is letting down people of colour in its response to the Forde report, Sheila Williams, LabourList, 4 October 2022
  99. Labour accused of still not engaging with ‘hierarchy of racism’ claims, The Guardian, 18 March 2023
  100. Johnson’s schools attack on Starmer
  101. Labour leader Keir Starmer visits Leeds Indian restaurant Tharavadu, Yorkshire Evening Post, 13 August 2020
  102. Keir Starmer defends Labour stance on 'spy cops' bill abstention, The National, 24 October 2020
  103. Portsmouth Labour leader expelled from party for sharing ‘innocuous’ Facebook post in 2016, Portsmouth News, 17 January 2023
  104. Peter Mandelson: ‘Starmer has seen off Corbynite extremists but has more to do to reinvent Labour’, The Evening Standard, 3 January 2023
  105. Asked by Matt Forde if he’s worried that those who really support Corbyn won’t vote Labour at the election, Starmer said: “No, not in the slightest.” Repeated his line from his speech last week: “Like I said, we’ve changed the Labour Party. If you don’t like it, you can leave.”, Ben Bloch on Twitter, 21 February 2023
  106. Keir Starmer admits he forced out former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, Daily Record, 4 April 2023
  107. Alan Johnson, Corbyn is one man. Left-wing Antisemitism is a tradition., Fathom, October 2020.
  108. Values,
  109. UK government debt and deficit: September 2022, Office for National Statistics, 31 January 2023
  110. Bigger public sector pay rises unaffordable, chancellor says, The Guardian, 21 February 2023.
  111. Starmer responds to claim he has ditched leadership pledges by saying 'vast majority' of Labour members back him '100%', The Guardian, 23 February 2023.
  112. Keir Starmer led the CPS when it did not charge Jimmy Savile, but he wasn’t the reviewing lawyer, Full Fact, 26 June 2020
  113. Johnson backtracks on comment that Starmer failed to prosecute Savile, The Guardian, 3 February 2022
  114. Man of the people? New Labour leader Sir Keir owns seven acres of land in Surrey worth up to £10m, Daily Mail, 17 May 2020
  115. Sir Keir Starmer rakes it in after 'selling green-belt land for £400k'... just days before travellers set up unauthorised caravan site next door that was compared to 'a military operation' by shocked residents, Daily Mail, 17 December 2022
  116. Trilateral Commission - Keir Starmer
  117. In 2011 Keir Starmer ran all night courts as Director of Public Prosecutions to maximise the number of people prosecuted after the London riots., on Twitter, 10 June 2020
  118. England riots: all-night courts praised, but were they a publicity stunt?, Fiona Bawden in The Guardian, 22 December 2011
  119. Rapid riot prosecutions more important than long sentences, says Keir Starmer, The Guardian, 3 July 2012
  120. Rioters are being treated too harshly by courts, warns CPS chief, Mail Online, 3 September 2011