This account of Keir Starmer is from a Twitter thread from Jon Pike who says he knew Keir as a young man in the Labour Party. 

There is no verification of this account, but it is interesting. I have transposed some of the Twitter links into ordinary text and added a few links.

Martin


This is a thread about , particularly about his early commitment to the Labour Party. It’s first hand.

I was brought up in Caterham, Surrey, just up the road from Keir, in Oxted, and in the same constituency. It was a completely safe Tory seat, then and now. I tried to join the Labour Party in 1979 at the General Election, aged fourteen, by the simple tactic of going to a rare election public meeting of Sir Geoffrey Howe, asking a hostile question about the NHS and looking for the people at the back who smiled.

(Oddly, because I had long hair, I got embarrassingly misgendered) The Labour Party people said I was too young to join, but they took my name.

A little while later I got a letter from the party about East Surrey Young Socialists – which was being set up by a chap called Keir. I cadged a lift and with my brother we got stuck in to the LPYS. The great and her brother were also involved.

‘East Surrey’ conjures up images of the stockbroker belt and those are not wholly inaccurate. But in the South East, then and now, there is a lot of light industry, especially light engineering – including around Gatwick.

Keir’s dad was a toolmaker, and a labour meeting stalwart.

There were large pockets of semi-rural poverty, ageing and neglected social housing, poor public services (including a terrible rural bus service). There was and is a labour movement, and a relatively active Labour Party.

So a few of us with Keir in the forefront, established an Labour Party Young Socialist [LPYS] group.

The LPYS nationally at that time (1981-3) was run by the Militant, and the first major political introduction we had was to keep our branch independent from them and that was fairly straightforward because Keir was in the non-Militant group from the off.

But we didn’t go for expelling folk: we wanted to do our own political thing – and argue – a lot.

Partly because of Keir, this was a “political” argument: one of the things that came up a lot was internationalism, for two reasons: first the Militant reduced every important international issue to support for their own front organisation. (The Chile “Socialist” Solidarity campaign, for example)

Second, because of their Bennite endorsement, even then, for leaving the EU. Keir and the rest of us learned to be critical of both. But mainly the Militant were just boring.

We also escaped being captured in an attempt to ‘round up’ the independent branches in the Young Socialist by, I think, Labour Briefing (the group closest to Corbyn at the time).

One of the big troubles was organising meetings and lifts. We were generally not old enough to drive, and there were two centres – Oxted and Caterham and no easy way to get between them.

At that point two key social networks of the semi rural left kicked in. My mum was doing an Open University degree, and so was Keir’s mother Jo, who was a nurse. They also knew each other through church links.

Jo wasn’t well, and Keir has a brother with disabilities, so my mum went over to see them, to study with Jo, and could give us a lift to LPYS meetings at the same time.

We ran jumble sales (very well attended) and held public meetings, (not so well attended) and poked fun at the Tories. We weren’t always politically or socially astute.

One time, we found out that Geoffrey Howe was starting a fun run in Oxted. We all signed up so as to go to the start and heckle him. Heckling done, it then dawned on us that we had to actually run the course. A certain amount of walking and smoking of fags may have occurred.

Keir was left wing, thoughtful, non-sectarian and amiable then, as he is now. Some of the life went out of the LPYS branch went out when he went off to Leeds to do his law degree.

Four years later, I met up with Keir again, and we were in a different kind of faction fight. Again it was respectful and amiable partly because of Keir.

A main source of contention was the Wapping dispute.

The dominant group in the labour club was led by David Milliband and Stephen Twigg:  they weren’t as enthusiastic about supporting the sacked Sun workers as we were: and there was quite a sophisticated row about the intersection of ideological and class struggles.

Keir was the sophisticated one, with [Gargi Bhattacharyya]. Keir went down to Wapping a few times, as a National Council for Civil Liberties [now Liberty] observer.

I was in the forerunner of [Workers’ Liberty] at the time, and spectacularly failed to recruit Keir.

But we agreed about quite a lot over the odd pint in the Kings Arms – only the odd, because he was incredibly hard working. As is known, he ended up working for a while with [Benji Schoendorff – now a Cofounder of the Contextual Psychology Institute] whilst turning from study to his legal work.

So Keir is not (merely) a North London Barrister who turned, later in life to ‘go into politics.’ He’s got working class roots, knows about hardship, and has a long and deep commitment to the Labour Party and particularly to its left.

He’s frighteningly intelligent, and a ferociously hard worker. If he’s a ‘careerist’, he’s one who spent a lot of time at the age of sixteen trying to build a LP youth branch in a Tory safe seat. That’s either playing a “very” long game, or having your heart in the party.

I think I know which.