I know cool, grounded Victoria Starmer

I know cool, grounded Victoria Starmer

The other day I was thinking back to the tumultuousness of the Boris Johnson premiership and how unsettling it was. Johnson had said that he liked chaos, because then everyone had to look to him for leadership. But it seemed like his wife, Carrie, was on board with the chaos, too.

Remember the untrained rescue puppy, the babies born in quick succession, the Princess Nut-Nut accusations, the botched home renovations, the endless friction with advisers like Steve Hilton and Dominic Cummings. I am allergic to chaos, so naturally all this made me seize up inside whenever I thought about what day-to-day life must have been like.

Because while it obviously matters who the prime minister is, it also matters who they are married to. Denis Thatcher was a total brick. Samantha Cameron reportedly made Dave do the dishes and drove his decision to quit (a decision made, it is claimed, before Brexit). Cherie Blair couldn’t hide how much she hated the press. Philip May helped his wife decide to call a disastrous election. We never got time to know Mr Liz Truss, whatever his name was.

And while I’ve got no idea what kind of prime minister Keir Starmer is going to be, I know for a fact that his wife, Victoria, is going to be an ace PM’s wife. And will bring a dose of north London cool to No 10.

I first met Victoria in about 2015 because we both live in Tufnell Park in north London. It is sometimes described as “leafy”, and yeah, sure, there are some trees with leaves on them. But please don’t confuse us with Dartmouth Park. That is a few streets away but a different world, with its multi-million pound houses, done up to the nines. Local residents include Benedict Cumberbatch, Ed Miliband and Camden Town Brewery founder Jasper Cuppaidge. Now that really is leafy. It is not only leafy, it is hushed, with wide streets leading directly to Hampstead Heath and smart shiny cars.

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Tufnell Park, on the other hand, is considerably more rough and gets rougher as you lurch towards Kentish Town. We’ve got overflowing bins, fly-tipping, graffiti and a healthy American XL Bully population, who seem neither muzzled nor neutered. And, trust me, we are living in paradise times compared to what the area was like when I moved in in 2008.

The row of shops at the top of my street used to be a no-go zone. I was once walking down Ospringe Road with my kids and two policemen chased a man out of a house in broad daylight, wrestled him to the ground and literally said the words: “You’re nicked.”

The youngest Starmer child is the same age as my eldest and they attended ballet lessons together when they were small. Victoria proposed an initiative where a small group of us took it in turns to bring in a thermos of coffee, which we would drink and natter on for the 45 minutes that the lesson lasted.

After everyone grew out of ballet, Victoria’s daily commute to the Royal Free Hospital took her past my house and I would see her doing the not inconsiderable walk to South End Green, come rain or shine. Our joke – possibly not very funny – was that whenever I saw her, she was always on the phone. And if not on the phone, she stopped to talk to anyone who wanted to chat to her, and everyone wanted to chat to her because everyone liked her. That would drive me bonkers, I’d take to wearing a hat and dark glasses, but it never seemed to faze her. She was there for it, always accessible and extremely diplomatic.

I’m talking in the past tense, of course, because Victoria – Vicky or Vic – has gone now, gobbled up whole by Westminster. The family couldn’t stay in their home of course, now they’re the first family, security makes that impossible.

When I consider being taken away from my walking commute, away from the bins and leaves (such as they are), of Tufnell Park I feel panicky and sad. I don’t envy Vicky’s new life of close protection officers (unless they are handsome), governmental buildings and “living above the shop”. It’s probably mind-blowing and hilarious for about a week and then a series of diminishing returns. The perma-demonstrations at the Downing Street gates would get old pretty quickly.

I imagine she will look to prime ministerial spouses who have trodden this road before: like Samantha Cameron – the perfect embodiment of a certain Conservative demographic, with her tiny rebellious tattoo, holidays to Ibiza, a whiff of aristocracy and the fashion brand. I met her once or twice and was struck by how tough, organised and no-nonsense she is, alongside the glamour. My enduring thought was that she would be handy in an emergency. If you crash-landed in the Borneo jungle, she would not be a dead weight.

Though the politics are different, I’m sure, Victoria has the same energy – and I mean that as a compliment.

Victoria is the best of north London. She walks in all weathers, is cheerful and relaxed, is devoted to public service already in her work for the NHS and isn’t above putting on a nice frock if the situation calls for it. (I’m sure she’d be fine in the jungle, too.)

As a citizen of this country, I am so glad that Victoria is repping us. She won’t do anything mad, or let Keir do anything mad. She’ll be nice to all the civil servants and if she gets a dog she’ll make sure it’s house trained. She will definitely not let the bins overflow. These things matter! Creating a stable environment in which everyone can flourish is a task that so often falls to women. The work goes largely unsung, but it is arguably the most important work of all.

So good luck, Vicky. We’ll all miss you in the mornings. Come and see us soon for a thermos of coffee and bring your CPO. But only if he’s handsome.


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