April 2020

Leeds alum leads Labour Party

Sir Keir Starmer (Law 1985) has been elected as the leader of the Labour Party.

It is another significant role for an alumnus who has thrived across a number of high profile positions during his career. His journey from Leeds has seen him work as a barrister, a member of the Queen’s Counsel and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“In his professional life, Keir has always sought out daunting challenges,” says Professor Clive Walker, Keir’s former lecturer. “Whether death penalty cases in the criminal courts, the reform of policing in Northern Ireland, or the direction of public prosecutions. In that light, his manifold talents will again be put to effective use in his new and important public office.”

Having graduated from Leeds with a first class degree, Keir went on to play a key role in the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in certain Caribbean countries, and under his leadership, the Crown Prosecution Service achieved its highest conviction rate for domestic violence and sexual offences. A knighthood for his services to Law and Criminal Justice followed in 2014.

"Meeting him filled me with confidence in him as a passionate and dynamic leader who is also incredibly humble."

Rebecca Barclay (student)
Third year law

Despite his busy schedule, Keir's ties to Leeds have remained strong throughout. He opened the Law School building in 2011, and sits on the advisory board for the Law School as a high profile alumnus with expertise as the Director of Public Prosecutions. “He’s given us valuable horizon scanning advice,” says Professor Joan Loughrey, Acting Head of the Law School. “He also recently attended the School and gave a really well received talk to our students on his career and how his studies at Leeds had inspired him to become a human rights lawyer.”

Keir went on to co-author two books with Professor Walker, and they have maintained contact on various law related issues ever since.

But it is perhaps this last visit to Leeds that best highlights the attributes that have seen him receive much praise over his career. Rebecca Barclay, third year law student, joined Keir for a Q & A session held that day. “Despite his hectic campaign schedule, he made plenty of time to talk to us, spending time asking us about our studies and career aspirations. Meeting him filled me with confidence in him as a passionate and dynamic leader who is also incredibly humble.”

His recent election presents another challenging step in the road for a successful Leeds graduate. Given his work ethic, we imagine it will be a challenge he relishes.