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Keir Starmer selects EU anthem at Desert Island Picks event

MP also reveals love of Northern Soul

26 June, 2019 — By Richard Osley

SIR Keir Starmer selected Ode To Joy – the music adopted as an anthem by the European Union – when he took part in a Desert Island Discs-style event on Thursday evening.

As politicos scanned his choices for coded messages, the Holborn and St Pancras MP also picked The Israelites and Bridge Over Troubled Water as he appeared on stage at a Labour Party fundraiser.

Mr Starmer, who has been leading the party’s response to Brexit, said he picked Ode To Joy because it was always an “incredible noise” when musicians performed Beethoven’s classic work.

He quipped that it was the ringtone choice of colleague Richard Corbett, leader of the Labour MEPs, and that if people wanted the music to ring through shadow cabinet meetings they should try calling his phone.

Pressed on what Labour’s position now was on Europe and with a call for “clarity” from the floor of the Irish Centre in Camden Town, Mr Starmer said it was time for the party to “firm up”.

He told an audience of around 150 party members: “We’ve been stuck in technicalities for two years or more, and that’s been important in terms of winning technicals points like: can we have a meaningful vote etcetera, etcetera? But now we’ve had negotiations with the government and they didn’t work, so for me I think that signals there isn’t a deal that the country can coalesce around. There just isn’t I’m afraid.”

Keir Starmer is a fan of Desmond Dekker

The former director of public prosecutions added: “At one point, I thought there might just be something which had enough of Leave and enough of Remain for people to get around but it’s not going to happen. We’ve got to confront that.”

While internal disagreement within Camden Labour Party is never far from the surface, Mr Starmer has an enthusiastic fanclub within the membership, who are pleased with how he has slotted into place since taking the constituency baton from Frank Dobson.

But there remains frustration about the party’s Brexit tactics, which he has been one of the frontmen for, among many members in a constituency which heavily voted to Remain.

He told the audience: “The EU elections were very bad for Labour. When you come fifth in Scotland, something is wrong with the position you have adopted. This is not an attack on anyone by the way. It’s a reflection on the big decisions that have to be made. We are now facing the prospect of a Boris Johnson government and he could go for ‘no deal’. So we are in completely different territory and I think we’ve got to say as a party that whatever the outcome now, whatever is put on the table has got to have the consent of the public – or we remain.”

Dobie Gray, part of Mr Starmer’s Northern Soul collection

Mr Starmer was being interviewed by Ayesha Hazarika, the former special adviser now working as a newspaper columnist and comedian. He told her that he had picked Desmond Dekker’s The Israelites because it reminded him of his work on a campaign to end capital punishment in the Caribbean as a young lawyer.

Stormzy’s version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Bridge Over Troubled Water was chosen because it had been recorded to highlight the inequalities and injustice behind the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. The MP also revealed a love of Northern Soul music, choosing Dobie Gray’s Out On The Floor.

He revealed that one of his favourite musicians was Edwyn Collins, picking his version of Pale Blue Eyes. He said he now played football on Sundays with the singer’s son; his luxury item in the Desert Island Discs format was a football.

Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins is another musical hero for the MP

The evening had begun, however, with Jim Reeves’ Welcome To My World, which Mr Starmer said was dedicated to his mother, who passed away just two weeks before he was first elected in 2015. She had suffered from Still’s Disease, a rare condition which affects the joints and the immune system.

He explained that she had been told she would be in a wheelchair by her 20s and not be able to have children – a prediction that proved false when the introduction of steroids helped her cope.

In her later years, how­e­ver, one of her legs need­ed to be amputated.

“It was an incredible thing,” he said. “If you said to her: ‘How are you?’ She’d always say: ‘I’m alright. How are you?’ As kids, we used to get home from school, and she would make us jam sandwiches and would play Jim Reeves – and that’s why I chose that.”

Keir and Vic’s Meet cute

LOVESTRUCK MP Keir Starmer turned mushy when he was asked by Ayesha Hazarika to pick his very favourite music, selecting the concerto that his wife walked down the aisle to.

But, to trills of laughter from the audience, he explained how they had first met. The meet-cute moment came when they were both in the legal profession and his future wife, Victoria Alexander, was working for a firm preparing case files for Mr Starmer before he went into court.

Mr Starmer recalled: “The bundles of documents in front of me had to be 100 per cent accurate. I phoned up to check and said: ‘This schedule? Is it any good? Is it absolutely accurate?’ She quite indignantly, quite rightly, said: ‘Absolutely.’ She says she then put the phone down and said: ‘Who the f*** does he think he is?’ ”

Ms Alexander – who Mr Starmer refers to simply as Vic – called from the floor: “That’s true, with some words missing.”

Mr Starmer said Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 would always be special to the couple, who have two children and live in Kentish Town, after playing at their 2007 wedding.

He said he was in awe of how his wife had changed careers to become a mentor to children who other people had given up on.

“It’s a reflection on the legal profession, which thought she had taken a step down,” he said.


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