Why is Keir Starmer a Sir?

Why is Keir Starmer a Sir?


Sir Keir was officially awarded his knighthood in 2014, a year before he became an MP. 

Sir Keir’s  knighthood was awarded for for “services to law and criminal justice“.

These services related to Sir Keir’s five year tenure as the Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service. The Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for deciding which prosecutions are pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is normal for the Director of Public Prosecutions to be knighted after completing their tenure.  The previous two occupants of this post, Sir David Calvert-Smith QC (1998-2003), and Sir Ken Macdonald QC (2003-2008), were also both knighted.

Prior to his appointment as the Director of Prosecutions, Starmer was a human rights lawyer. He served as the joint head of Doughty Street Chambers, and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2002. Starmer also acted as a human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board

Among the many cases that Starmer was involved with were the legal battles to remove the death penalty in the Caribbean and Africa, and the famous McLibel case involving MacDonalds.

In a television interview with Piers Morgan in 2021, Sir Keir spoke about how his late mother was alive to see him become a Sir, but that she passed away before being able to see him become the labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

Is the knighthood a problem for Sir Keir?

Since becoming Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer has had some difficulties in cutting through to voters.

In 2022, in the face of the partygate scandal involving the prime minister, and the most significant cost of living crisis for a generation, Sir Keir’s Labour party was only 5% ahead in the polls. This compares with the constant 20% lead in the polls that was regularly enjoyed by Tony Blair during the period 1992-1997 when John Major was prime minister.

In May 2022, Starmer possessed a negative approval rating of minus 10% according to the polling firm, Opinium.  Polling firms showed Sir Keir‘s popularity to be only a little bit ahead of prime minister Boris Johnson.

Although some people suggest that Sir Keir’s knighthood is a useful marker to his wider experiences, others see the knighthood as a barrier in his bid to enter Downing Street. It is often said that being known as a ‘Sir’ can make Sir Keir appear out of touch to many voters.

Sir Keir makes much of his upbringing where his mother was a nurse and his dad was a toolmaker. However, with many voters not studying the day to day intricacies of politics, Sir Keir‘s back story has not cut through to everyone.

By contrast, the knighthood is something that people immediately observe, and which can potentially make the labour leader appear out of touch and aloof from ordinary people.

Sir Keir‘s knighthood is also something that can be used against him by satirists. For example, after the police commenced an investigation into a lockdown event in Durham attended by Sir Keir, some people starting calling him Sir Beer Korma.

Does Sir Keir Starmer like his knighthood?

Sir Keir himself has previously said in interviews that he does not like formal titles.

Nonetheless Sir Keir did accept the honour, and as such, it is hard to judge his true opinion of his knighthood.

In the past, others with stated reservations about the honours system have previously refused honours. These include the world famous physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, who turned down a knighthood in the mid 1990s.