When looking to present yourself as the next leader of a nation, glitter is probably quite far down the list of suggestions proffered by various special advisors and PR types.

Tony Blair may have latched on to Britpop and Cool Britannia in his quest for Downing Street but it's unlikely Sir Keir Starmer envisioned his pitch for Prime Minister being more Hannah Montana than Harold Wilson.

A climate activist and advocate for political reform Yaz Ashmawi interrupted Mr Starmer's key note speech to the Labour conference by dumping a handful of glitter over the leader of the opposition - though he admitted that grabbing hold of the man who may be Britain's next Prime Minister crossed the line.

Critics of Mr Starmer may well say a bit of colour and drama is more than welcome when it comes to a man often accused of trying to bore his way to Number 10, a kind of political parking the bus without any of that signature Jose Mourinho charisma.

But is that fair? And what do we really know about the man who would be PM?

The Herald: A protestor throws glitter over Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir was born in Southwark, London to a working-class family. His mother was a nurse and his father a toolmaker, and they named their second born after former Labour leader Keir Hardie.

After performing well in his 11-plus, the young Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School, which would become a private school during the course of his education. The family were exempt from paying fees until Keir was 16, with his sixth-form fees paid by the school charity.

Classmates included Norman Cook - the future Fatboy Slim, no less - but if the Labour leader was anything of a raver it didn't show in his studies, with Mr Starmer going on to study law at the University of Leeds and emerging with first class honours.

He did a post-graduate degree at Oxford University and became a barrister in 1987, shortly after he ended his partial editorship of the radical magazine Socialist Alternative.

Mr Starmer made his name in the legal world in the field of human rights, including representing environmental activists Helen Steel and David Morris in their fight against a defamation lawsuit by McDonald's. The two were eventually awarded close to £60,000 by the UK Government after the European courts found they had been denied a fair trial.

Sir Keir also provided legal opinions against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as challenging Mr Blair's New Labour government on issues around welfare and asylum.

It was something of a surprise then when Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, made him director of public prosecutions - despite his having never prosecuted a criminal case.

He attracted controversy almost immediately by upholding the decision not to prosecute the police officer who had killed Jean Charles de Menezes, while a man who licked a single scoop of ice cream during the 2011 London riots was jailed for 16 months and ordered to be deported back to Portugal.

In the main though his stint as DPP only boosted Mr Starmer's reputation - and he was soon ready to make the move into politics.

Rapid rise

When Frank Dobson, the MP for the safe Labour seat of Holborn & St Pancras retired, it was pretty clear who the party leadership wanted to replace him.

Mr Starmer beat four other potential candidates, and was duly elected at the 2015 General Election with a majority of 17,048.

Labour's defeat in that election saw Ed Miliband quickly defenestrated and party activists urged Sir Keir to stand to replace him, something the now former lawyer declined on the basis he had been an MP for quite literally 10 days.

Mr Starmer backed Andy Burnham in the subsequent leadership election only for Jeremy Corbyn, who had barely received the votes necessary to make it onto the ballot, to win in a landslide.

This presented something of a problem for the New Labour wing of the party, still in thrall to Mr Blair, who considered the MP for Islington North unelectable.

The Herald: Sir Keir Starmer (left) and Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to Brussels (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In an ultimately doomed attempt to bring the party together, Mr Corbyn selected a mixed shadow cabinet both consisting of his more left-wing allies and figures like Hilary Benn and Owen Smith. Mr Starmer was made shadow minister for immigration.

Things were turbulent right from the start, and were exacerbated by Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

Mr Corbyn, a Eurosceptic in the past, had endorsed Remain - as was the party's official position - but some felt his campaigning lukewarm. They may have had a point, with the party leader saying his enthusiasm for staying a part of the bloc reached the giddy heights of "seven or seven-and-a-half out of 10" during an appearance on Channel 4 panel show The Last Leg.

Shortly after the vote there was a mass resignation of the cabinet - including Mr Starmer - forcing a leadership election. Mr Corbyn won with an increased share of the vote and number of votes.

Following the vote Sir Keir was welcomed back into the fold as the shadow Brexit secretary, endorsing the option of a second referendum at the 2018 Labour conference.

Whether the party was torn apart by the Brexit issue, people in the were north repulsed by Mr Corbyn's hard-left stance or the thorny issue of anti-Semitism proved toxic at the polls, Labour - having surprised many by recording their biggest increase in vote share since the Second World War in 2017 - were soundly beaten at the 2019 election.

This time Mr Starmer had no qualms about standing.


The Herald:

Given how popular Mr Corbyn was with the party membership - if not the country - his successor initially stuck relatively closely to his programme for government.

Mr Starmer campaigned for the leadership promising an increase in income tax for the top 5%, the abolition of universal credit, common ownership of public services, the abolition of tuition fees and the repeal of a controversial strike law passed in 2016.

While Labour remains committed to the last pledge, others have been watered down or abandoned. Supporters of Mr Starmer would argue that since Covid and the inflation crisis the playing field has changed and things committed to in good faith are no longer possible. Critics accuse him of saying and doing whatever it takes to grasp the reins of power.

Barring some kind of epic scandal, it seems certain Mr Starmer will be the next Prime Minister - recent polling suggests a majority which could be close to 200. What kind of man will Britain be getting in Number 10?

Here, after all, is an ardent Remainer who has explicitly ruled out closer ties with the EU, a former human rights lawyer who believes Israel "has the right" to cut off power and water to Gaza, a Labour leader who will not stand on a picket line.

It is perhaps that rather grey, hard to pin down and, frankly, boring persona which is key to Mr Starmer's appeal. After Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, the electorate may well just want someone who looks like he'd take the bibs home at five-a-side, rather than introduce a flaming rugby ball to proceedings and forget to pay for the pitch.

Who is Sir Keir Starmer? Well, he's the next Prime Minister. Just don't expect much in the way of glitter.