It’s Refreshing That We’re Not Seeing More Of Victoria Starmer On The Campaign Trail

As Keir Starmer was flying solo today as he launched the Labour manifesto, does this signal a new M.O. for wives on the campaign trail?

Victoria Starmer

by Alice Hall |
Updated on

The general election is looming, and not a day goes by when we don't see the leaders of the key political parties out and about on the campaign trail. And it's not unusal for them to be accompanied by their wives. At the Conservative manifesto launch on Tuesday,Akshata Murty was therestanding by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's side.

But one woman who has been notably missing from the public eye so far is Victoria Starmer, Labour leader Keir Starmer's wife. It's rare she makes public appearances and, sure enough, at Labour's manifesto launch this morning she was nowhere to be seen.

As the woman who could become the next 'First Lady' if Labour wins the general election on 4 July, there’s naturally lots of interest around Victoria. But it's been reported that she prefers to keep a low profile and has only made a handful of public appearances since Keir became leader of the Labour party in April 2020.

Most of these appearances have been low-key: she stepped out with Keir to clap for carers on their doorstep in Kentish Town and was spotted in the Royal Box at Wimbledon the day Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister. Her first public appearance came at the 2021 Labour conference in Brighton, where she gave Keir a hug after his speech, and she has been pictured a few times out and about since.

This is a markedly different approach to Akshata Murty, Rishi Sunak’s wife, who is a regular on the campaign trail – recently, she said her role is simply ‘to keep the show going.’ In October last year, Akshata Murty made a surprise address at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where she described the couple as ‘one team’, spoke about what drives her husband and even jokingly quipped about his love for rom-coms – ‘the cheesier the better.’  In May, Akshata undertook her first solo campaign visit to a Royal British Legion care facility in Ripton, North Yorkshire, to increase support for Rishi’s campaign.

Partly, Victoria's absence can be explained by her job responsibilities, working in occupational health for the NHS in Camden. In a recent interview with The Times, Keir said that she had no intention of giving up her job if he were to become Prime Minister. 'She's absolutely going to carry on working, she wants to and she loves it. It's also good for me because it gives me an insight into the NHS,' he said.

While there’s no rulebook on how to be a Prime Minister's wife, Keir has made it clear that he won’t allow the Labour campaign to 'use' Victoria. A Labour insider told The Telegraph the Starmers' emphasis on privacy is because of ‘the children’, adding ‘they have got teenagers who are completely freaked out by the idea of being in Downing Street or in any way being in the public eye. It has got pretty heavy recently with children’s shoes, representing the dead kids in Gaza, being left outside the Starmer house – Sir Keir is determined that his family won’t be dragged into any of this.'

The Starmers' approach marks a refreshing change from the 'wife on the campaign trail' trope, where women can end up being 'wheeled out' to make their husbands look the part as a 'family man', reducing them to merely a supporting character, only there to burnish their husband's reputation and support his ambitions.

In an interview with Grazia, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez opened up about the realities of being a wife on the campaign trail, and how she found it ‘irritating’ when she became known for being Nick Clegg's partner – not as the lawyer and activist she is in her own right.

How Victoria will shape the role of 'First Lady' if Labour wins is yet to be seen, but one thing seems clear - she won't allow the 'politician's wife' trope to define her. It seems her absence is signalling a new type of politics for women on the campaign trail - and surely, that can only be a positive thing.

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