Sir Keir Starmer QC has confirmed his intention to throw his hat into the ring to stand as a Labour parliamentary candidate in London.
The former director of public prosecutions and human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers will seek election in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency – the area he has lived in for the past 15 years – providing the party does not opt for an all-woman shortlist.
Starmer, 51, had been widely tipped for the safe Labour seat since Frank Dobson, who has held it since 1979, announced his decision last week to step down at the 2015 general election. In the 2010 election Dobson had a majority of nearly 10,000 over the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Shaw.
The Conservatives’ George Lee came third.
Since standing down as DPP in November 2013, after a five-year term, Starmer has worked closely with Labour, leading its review of the treatment of victims of crime.
As well as returning to his Doughty Street set, Starmer last month joined City firm Mishcon de Reya as a part-time consultant in its business crime group headed by his former former colleague Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the DPP.
In an interview with the Gazette, Starmer, who said he has been a member of the Labour Party since he was 17, said he had been ‘politically restricted’ as DPP, but has been ‘mulling over’ the decision to stand for the last seven months.
He has received strong support for his candidature from many, including the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips, chair of the Kings Cross Mosque Mohammed Gofur, veteran barrister and peer Helena Kennedy QC, broadcaster Joan Bakewell and Tessa Jowell MP, as well as trade union ASLEF.
But he cautioned: ‘It’s a very important seat and there will be lots of strong competition.’
The selection exercise will take place in the autumn. Assuming he is selected and elected as an MP, ‘a very big assumption’ he insisted, Starmer would not be drawn on his ultimate political ambition – whether he fancied the role of justice secretary, attorney general or the top job.
In the legal field, he said he is concerned about the ‘access to justice crisis’. He declined to comment on his party’s position on successive government policies such as the cuts to legal aid, but said ‘we need to be clear what principles access to justice are founded on’.
‘At the moment my sole focus is on getting selected as a candidate,’ he stressed.
Starmer studied law at the University of Leeds and St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He is married with two children.