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TUESDAY 16 JULY  2024

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Just how humble is this son of
a toolmaker and did Starmer’s dad actually own his factory?

GRADUATION DAY: Starmer with his parents Rodney and Josephine


This Son of a Toolmaker business, now the stuff of jokes and cartoons, what does it tell us? What relevance has it to whether Starmer might make a good/bad/indifferent prime minister?

 

I am the son of an electrical engineer who trained first as a quantity surveyor and later ran a division of Ulster Television. He was the most accomplished of chaps; he restored two houses and several vintage motor cars and, even when registered blind in his 70s, was able to cook and entertain at dinner parties. I admired him hugely and, though I inherited his love of vintage cars and cooking, my practical abilities are restricted to hanging pictures and a spot of gardening.

 

The father of the Editor of this fine organ was a distinguished headmaster, yet his son was the naughtiest boy in the class of supersubs on the Express. So I’m not sure if antecedents are relevant though I do make an exception in the case of Johnson (son of a nasty show-off wife beater, and Farage, son of an alcoholic stockbroker-cum-antiques dealer.)

 

But, just for the hell of it I have delved (with the help of the Chief of Staff), a little closer into Keir Starmer’s father. This is what I learned from a most unlikely source, Barn Theatre News Vol 18, Issue 3. For the non-cognoscenti among you, this is the newsletter of the splendid Barn Theatre in Oxted of which I was an occasional patron. Mr and Mrs Starmer senior, on the other hand, were devoted regulars. Indeed, in 2000 when it reopened after an extensive and expensive refurb, they were pictured with the Duke of Kent (son of a previous Duke of Kent, don’t you know) who had come to do the honours.

 

An interview in the newsletter in 2014 with very proud dad Rodney Starmer is revealing. Mr Starmer said that in his son’s gap year between leaving Reigate Grammar School and going first to Leeds University and then to Oxford, that “Keir worked as a house parent at a children’s home on Bodmin Moor looking after disabled boys and girls. He then did a further six months in my factory operating a production machine. He found that dead boring!”

 

Note the ‘MY factory.’ Was Mr Starmer using the proprietorial ‘my’ (as literally) or in the colloquial way when one might talk of the local as ‘my pub.’ I don’t know but it does tend to add credence to speculation that Keir Starmer’s childhood was not quite as financially bleak as he would like us believe. Any more than poor little Rishi was grossly underprivileged by not having a Sky dish.

 

As I have mentioned here before, I know Oxted very well, ditto Woldingham, where the Starmer family lived before moving three miles away to Oxted. Woldingham has one row of modest houses but the rest, the vast majority, are grand in the extreme and set in acres overlooking an expensive golf course and magnificent countryside.

 

Old Oxted, the part of Oxted where the Starmers had their home, is far from cheap. There is a small development of affordable properties but the rest are the sort that appear in Country Life when they hit the market. Mohamed Fayed lived there and that vandal of the railways Lord Beeching had his home in Woldingham. So too did Jacqueline Gold of those Ann Summers saucepots.

 

As for the Barn Theatre, it’s not exactly a village hall. Over the years luminaries who have trodden its boards include Dame Flora Robson, Lady Violet Bonham-Carter, Randolph Churchill (Chartwell is just down the road,) Sir Michael Tippett, Jimmy Tarbuck, Ronnie Corbett and local boy Richard Stilgoe.

 

It’s as middle class as they come and the perfect venue for the long-awaited Drone, The Musical...

 

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I had a call recently from a friend who writes obituaries for The Times. He had been commissioned to compile one on a pal of mine for when the Reaper arrives. We spoke for half an hour or so and I did my best to give him my honest opinion. It was an interesting exercise and coincided with a great piece in the Spectator by Nigel Farndale, editor of The Times obituaries page, a must-read section of that great paper.

 

Take its just-published obit of grande dame Julia Budworth, formerly the hugely combative owner of The Lady, that anachronistic relic which Rachel Johnson tried so hard to change when she was briefly editor. Johnson wanted the mag to be ‘more hip, less hip replacement’ but Budworth was having none of it, expressing her particular displeasure at an article by new Dame Tracey Emin on masturbation.

 

‘Rachel cannot speak about any subject without bringing the conversation back to penises,’ she railed, ‘All she thinks of is sex, you can’t get her away from penises. Penis this, penis that. What’s the matter with the girl?’ (‘A penis? A penis????’ wouldn’t that make a jolly update of Lady Bracknell’s memorable outburst?)

 

Farndale wrote of the need to be honest about the late departed. In the case of Sir Jeremiah Harman, he was ‘the rude, prickly, lazy, short-tempered, unpredictable’ judge known in legal circles as Harman the Horrible. A relative got in touch with The Times not to complain but to say the assessment ‘got him spot on.’

 

As for the octogenarian Mick Jagger, Farndale bumped into him at a party and the ever-rolling-Stone asked for a preview of what had been prepared awaiting his demise. The answer was in the negative and Jagger got no satisfaction.

 

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Who said this (and I have not tried to add punctuation or any normal grammar), it is exactly as spoken:

 

‘Religion is such a great thing it’s so it keeps you know there’s something to be good about you want to be good you wanna it’s so important I don’t know if it’s explained right I don’t know if I’m explaining it right you know you want to be good you want to go to heaven when you have something like that you wanna go to heaven OK so you want to go to heaven so if we don’t have heaven OK you almost say what’s the reason why do I have to be good let’s not be good what difference does it make.’

 

Clue: He is idolised by Johnson and Farage, loved by Truss and is friends with Putin and that weirdo with the strange hair in N Korea. And he a convicted felon and self-confessed pussy grabber.

 

The usual crisp oncer for the first correct answer.

 

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I am sure most of us are pleased that King Charles seems well enough to be back working (’whatever that is’ to misquote him) and particularly so to see the Princess of Wales in public at Trooping the Colour.

 

But the Mail on Sunday hit the most ridiculous of ‘pass-the-sickbag’ heights on Sunday with its Splash heading:

 

‘On cue the sun broke through the showers to shine on her – and the whole world said in unison: It’s lovely to see you too, Kate.’

 

Alice, quick with that sickbag!


ALAN FRAME


19 June 2024