Sir Keir Starmer: what did he say about mother in Life Stories: Piers Morgan - and what’s Still’s Disease?

The Labour leader spoke out about his life and his mother’s illness, in the personal TV interview

Piers Morgan's latest guest was Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Picture: ITV)
Piers Morgan's latest guest was Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Picture: ITV)

ITV will air Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: Keir Starmer tonight (1 June), where Starmer will share new insights into his life growing up and as leader of the Labour Party.

Starmer will also open up about how his mother’s terminal illness affected his life and values.

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Starmer’s late mother Josephine was diagnosed with Still’s Disease when she was a young girl and this impacted her life and that of her family significantly.

Keir attended Leeds University before progressing to Oxford, he was the first in his family to obtain a degree (Picture: Twitter/Piers Morgan)

Where did Keir Starmer grow up?

Starmer grew up in Oxted, Surrey as the second of four children. He was raised by his parents, Josephine, a nurse, and Rodney, a toolmaker.

He attended the local grammar school, Reigate Grammar, where he shared a class with Andrew Sullivan, who went on to become a Conservative journalist.

He once said of Sullivan: "[We] fought over everything... Politics, religion. You name it."

Starmer was named after Labour founder and politician Keir Hardie, which he told ITV’s Paul Brand was a name he hated in school, as he “wanted to be like everyone else” but has grown to love it.

He also told Brand that his name “reflects the ‘Labour’ values of my mum and dad” but added that they did not push him into politics or the Labour party and instead advised him to study law.

In an LBC radio interview in 2020, he also said of his father: “My dad was a great Labour man.

“My dad was a toolmaker, he worked in a factory all his life and my mum was a nurse. We were a Labour family.”

Starmer went on to read law at Leeds University, while campaigning as a socialist. He specialised in human rights and worked on issues such as the death penalty.

The Labour leader progressed from Leeds to Oxford University, where he studied Civil Law and became a barrister.

In 2015, he was elected the MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

What happened to his mother?

Starmer’s mother, Josephine, suffered from a rare autoimmune disease from the age of 11.

Starmer said his mother was “determined” she would not let it take over her life. She was supposed to be in a wheelchair from around the age of 20 and the disease could have inhibited her ability to have children, but she did not allow it to.

In February 2020, he told ITV’s ‘Acting Prime Minister’ podcast: "From the moment she was told she was not going to walk again, she decided she was going to walk again".

Throughout his infant years and into his teens, Starmer said he can “distinctly remember” spending nights in high dependency wards while his mother underwent treatment, including taking steroids to manage her illness.

He said of his mother: “[Doctors] discovered steroids helped because she was due to be in a wheelchair by the time she was 20.

“She was determined to keep on walking. But the steroids and the disease together towards the last years of her life meant she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t move her limbs, she couldn’t speak.”

He has since told how his mother lost her ability to talk: “She’s never spoken to our children and in the end, ended up having her leg amputated.”

Starmer told LBC’s former weekly phone-in ‘Call Keir’ that observing her treatments gave him admiration for NHS workers.

“Watching people in the NHS saving her life was an incredible thing,” he said.

His mother passed away two weeks before he was elected in 2015.

He told Piers Morgan he wishes he had told her he loved her one last time and that his father never recovered from the pain of his wife’s death.

What is Still’s Disease?

Still’s disease is a rare form of arthritis which affects the joints, causing them to swell and become immobile.

While some patients have persistent pain and symptoms, others may feel the impact of the disease intermittently.

This inflammation can destroy affected joints, particularly the wrists, and treatments include medication and other procedures.

Symptoms and side effects of Still’s Disease include a fever, a salmon-pink rash on your stomach, arms and/or legs which runs concurrent with the feverish symptoms, a sore throat or swollen lymph nodes and swelling joints.

Joints most likely to swell are the knees and wrists, though shoulders, hands, ankles and elbows can be affected and may remain swollen for two weeks or more.

The swelling may be accompanied by muscle pains which come and go.

While two thirds of adults with Still’s Disease will not have recurring episodes, one third will suffer long term chronic symptoms which progress to the onset of typical arthritis.

When is Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: Keir Starmer on TV?

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: Keir Starmer will air on ITV/STV from 9.30pm on Tuesday 1 June, the episode will also be available to watch on demand, on the ITV Hub.