Keir Starmer says wife stays off campaign trail to help their son study

Lady Starmer, who Sir Keir affectionately calls Vic, has been absent from the election
Lady Starmer, who Sir Keir affectionately calls Vic, has been absent from election events - Karwai Tang/Getty Images

When Sir Keir Starmer returned to his north London home following the first TV debate with Rishi Sunak a fortnight ago, he was in a glum mood.

The Labour leader knew he had put in a plodding performance that had seen him outflanked on tax by an unexpectedly aggressive Prime Minister.

As he smarted over how the first big flashpoint in the election battle had gone it was his wife, Victoria, who was on hand to provide a timely pep talk.

Lady Starmer, who Sir Keir affectionately calls Vic, has been absent from the campaign trail in stark contrast to her opposite number Akshata Murty.

Whilst her husband has been ferried from one crowd of cheering supporters to the next – fuelled by the Labour battle bus’ on board coffee machine – she has juggled her job working in the NHS with helping their son study for his GCSEs.

Sir Keir Starmer on the campaign trail with MP Thangam Debbonaire (right) during a visit to Bristol Rovers FC
Sir Keir Starmer on the campaign trail with MP Thangam Debbonaire (right) during a visit to Bristol Rovers FC - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Whilst the campaign has seen the couple spend a lot of time apart, Sir Keir opened up on Tuesday about the extent to which he leans on her advice.

During an interview with LBC radio he was asked about his wife’s low public profile.

“I have to say I think I probably prefer her,” the station’s host Nick Ferrari teased, demanding of the Labour leader: “Why don’t we see more of her?”

“You’re probably not alone,” Sir Keir laughed, before adding: “Vic does quite a bit with me, but during this campaign two things.

“One, she is working at the NHS in a hospital. Two – and I don’t make a lot of this – is our boy has been doing his GCSEs.

“We took the decision that whilst I was out and about on the road, we wanted to create the environment where he could study calmly in ordinary circumstances.”

Lady Starmer, who met Sir Keir whilst the pair were both practising lawyers, is now an occupational health worker at a large hospital in London.

She has been nicknamed the “reluctant first lady” because of her aversion to publicity, but in private she is the Labour leader’s most trusted adviser.

“She is very plain speaking and very down to earth but she’s very supportive,” Sir Keir said. “She’s the person who gives me the straight advice every time.”

Lady Starmer’s influence can perhaps be seen when it comes to Labour’s controversial policy of levying VAT on private schools fees.

She was a governor at Eleanor Palmer Primary, an exclusive and high-performing state school in North London which the couple’s two children both attended.

Admission has been described as “selection by house price” given that properties in its tiny catchment area sell for upwards of £2 million.

When the school ran into financial difficulties in 2019, some of the governors proposed asking the wealthy parents of its pupils to donate cash.

Minutes of a governors’ meeting show that Lady Starmer opposed the move, recording how she raised “concerns around inclusivity”.

“Vicky Starmer asked governors to consider the feelings of families unable to donate money,” another section of the publicly available document reads.

Her opposition on equality grounds to private money being pumped into the school – even as donations – hints at a deep-seated belief in state-funded education.

Intensely private person

Sir Keir has described his wife as an intensely private person who is determined to “vigorously protect” the life she and her family have built for themselves.

As such the unearthing of photos from her university days, which show her enjoying parties and engaging in student politics, provide a rare insight.

She is seen in the snaps performing karaoke with friends and addressing student union meetings in Cardiff, where she studied law and sociology in the early 1990s.

The images predate her relationship with Sir Keir, whom she met in the early 2000s when their paths crossed as they both worked on a legal case together.

They married in 2007 and have two children – a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter – living together in a Camden townhouse thought to be worth £1.75 million.

Sir Keir was a late entrant to politics, standing for the first time in 2015 at the age of 52 after rising to the top of the legal profession as director of public prosecutions.

He recently revealed how his wife was less than impressed with his new choice of career as an MP, and told him so in typically forthright terms.

“She thought it would be far better to continue being a lawyer on a reasonable salary and not have all the challenges that you get as a politician,” he said.