Keir Starmer is known as a serious and principled politician, who has led the Labour Party since 2020 and challenged the Conservative government on various issues, from Brexit to the pandemic. He is also a former lawyer and prosecutor, who served as the Director of Public Prosecutions from 2008 to 2013. But did you know that he also has a more adventurous side to his personality?
According to a recent revelation by his university friend John Murray, Starmer once travelled to the south of France as a student with the intention of making money by selling ice-creams on the beach. However, he soon discovered that this was not a legal activity and had to evade the French police who were confiscating his products.
Murray told Politico’s Westminster Insider podcast that he and Starmer had seen an advertisement claiming that they could earn hundreds of pounds a day by selling ice-creams on the French Riviera. They decided to give it a try and spent a month as “almost beach bums” in the summer of 1983.
However, they soon realised that they were not the only ones who had fallen for this scam and that the beach was crowded with other illegal vendors. They also found out that selling ice-creams without a licence was against the law and that they risked being arrested by the local authorities.
Murray said: “We spent our time kind of avoiding being arrested. To be honest, I did get arrested. But all that happened was you had your ice-creams confiscated, got a receipt, then had to walk back to the beach without your flip-flops.”
He added that Starmer was luckier than him and managed to avoid being arrested, although he also had his ice-creams taken away by the police. He said: “I can’t say that [he was arrested] … I think he probably had his ice-creams confiscated. It was a minor misdemeanour.”
A Labour spokesperson confirmed that no arrests were made and that “the only loss of liberty occurred to some cut-price ice-creams”.
This anecdote shows a different side of Starmer, who has often been criticised for being too cautious and boring by some of his critics and supporters alike. It also reveals that he has some experience of dealing with European laws and authorities, which may have come in handy when he was appointed as the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU in 2016.
Starmer has not commented publicly on this story yet, but he may have a chance to do so when he visits France next week for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron. Perhaps he will also treat himself to a legal ice-cream while he is there.