Mark Mason

Is Keir Starmer too boring to be prime minister?

‘What do you know about Keir Starmer?’ My friend’s question came as we sat in the pub. It was part of an experiment, based on something he’d noticed.

‘Used to be Director of Public Prosecutions,’ I replied.

‘That’s the first thing everyone says. Anything else?’

‘Er …’ 

John gave me a prompt: ‘Is he married? Does he have kids?’

‘Pretty sure he’s married. And I think he has kids. But not totally sure on either. Certainly couldn’t give you names or ages.’


This was when it really hit me: Keir Starmer is anti-matter for facts. I had to know his constituency – like John, I’m an amateur political nerd. But somehow the information had exited my memory. What’s more, the answer is Holborn and St Pancras, the former constituency of Frank Dobson, who the Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn used to call ‘the Honourable Member for the two Tube stations’. All this had remained in my brain – but Starmer’s link to it had disappeared.

The ‘anti-matter’ phenomenon is one in which I have professional experience. My books and journalism are often based on trivia, those curious little facts and anecdotes that stick in the memory. Over the years I’ve noticed that there are some people who, no matter how famous they become, are simply devoid of interesting facts. Elizabeth II was a trivia goldmine, but her son Charles is the opposite. Paul McCartney is fascinating, Mick Jagger dull. It’s the same with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi: the former is named after Ronald Reagan, but the equivalent rumour that Messi was named after Lionel Richie is (sadly) untrue.

In politicians, though, the trait is rare. There’s usually something that comes to mind. Ken Livingstone had his newts, Margaret Beckett her caravans, Angela Rayner her record as youngest grandmother in the Commons (37 in 2017).

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in