Keir Starmer regrets not having closer relationship with ‘difficult’ father, Labour leader reveals

'He was incredibly hard working. He worked as a tool maker on a factory floor all of his life’

<p>Labour leader Keir Starmer has revealed his complex relationship with his distant father in an interview with Desert Island Discs</p>

Labour leader Keir Starmer has revealed his complex relationship with his distant father in an interview with Desert Island Discs

Sir Keir Starmer has opened up about his complicated relationship with his father during an interview on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs.

The Labour leader, who grew up in a left-wing working class family in Surrey, said he was not especially close to his father, Rodney, a toolmaker, who he described as a “difficult man”.  

"I don't often talk about my dad,” Sir Keir told the programme’s host Lauren Laverne. “He was a difficult man, a complicated man. He kept himself to himself. He didn't particularly like to socialise, so he wouldn't really go out very much.”

Rodney’s wife Josephine, a nurse, was forced to give up work because she had Still’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease which gradually robbed Sir Keir’s mother of her speech and movement.  

Despite their stilted relationship, Sir Keir said Rodney was devoted in his care of his wife.  

"He was incredibly hard working. He worked as a tool maker on a factory floor all of his life,” Sir Keir said.

"Also, he had this utter commitment and devotion to my mum. My mum was very, very ill all of her life and my dad knew exactly the symptoms of everything that might possibly go wrong with my mum.

"He stopped drinking completely just in case he ever needed to go to the hospital with her.”

Rodney and Josephine named their son after the Labour Party’s first leader, Keir Hardie, and instilled in him their own leftist politics from a young age. But despite this, he said he never managed to foster any real intimacy with his father.  

"I wouldn't say we were close. I understood who he was, and what he was. But we weren't close. And, I regret that."

Sir Keir added: "As young children we spent a lot of time in and out of high dependency units with my mum, thinking we were going to lose her.

"I remember one occasion when I was about 13 or 14, my dad phoning me from the hospital and saying 'I don't think mum's going to make it, will you tell the others?'

"And that was tough. That was really tough. So we pulled through that as a family."

During his interview Sir Keir also revealed his favourite music, including Northern Soul records which reminded him of early years living in a “grotty flat” in London above a sauna and massage parlour, and Jim Reeves’s ‘Welcome To My World’, which was his mother’s favourite track.  

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