Barack Obama 'behind Starmer transformation'

 Photo collage of Keir Starmer and Barack Obama.
Photo collage of Keir Starmer and Barack Obama.
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Commentators say Keir Starmer has become more open during interviews and the man behind the transformation is none other than Barack Obama, says a Labour shadow minister.

Even Starmer's "closest supporters" had become "frustrated by his inability to open up in public", said Politico, but "something has changed recently" after the former US president "urged Starmer to talk more openly".

'Barack just came alive'

An interview with Sky News earlier this month has been cited as evidence of the transformation. Starmer opened up on his "distant" relationship with his late father and said he wishes they had been closer.

Afterwards, the interviewer, Sophy Ridge, reflected that she had previously found Starmer "slightly impenetrable" but she had now "found a side that I hadn't experienced before", and felt "like I got to understand him a little better". Ridge's Sky News colleague, Adam Boulton, wrote that a "flurry of interviews and profiles" of the Labour leader is intended to answer the question of who he "really" is.

Could Obama be responsible for this change? Starmer and the former US president were introduced by Labour MP David Lammy, a friend of both politicians. The shadow foreign secretary said that, during a series of calls on Zoom, Obama told Starmer that 21st-century politicians must “communicate who they really are".

Speaking to the Power Play podcast, Lammy revealed that the former president's key message to the Labour leader was to be authentic. Obama's approach is "always seated in authenticity," said Lammy.

When Starmer began discussing his father during conversations with Obama, “Barack just came alive,” Lammy told the Labour leader's biographer, in a separate interview. The Democrat began "interrogating Keir further," Lammy said, as he thought that the story could become the "architecture for a genuine campaign".

Lammy added that Starmer has been talking a "lot more" about how his mother "struggled terribly with illness for many, many years", and how "his father cared for her". He has now discussed his "backstory, much more comfortably than perhaps we saw a few years ago" and "I know that Obama had strong views that Keir should do that".

'Clinton clone'

This is not the first time that a senior UK politician and a US president have reportedly swapped notes. During the 1997 general election campaign, Tony Blair was compared to Bill Clinton. "People called him a Clinton clone, or Clinton Lite," said Bloomberg at the time.

More recently, Boris Johnson has been compared to Donald Trump. The two men are "dangerously similar", said New Statesman and they have "overlapping lives", said The Spectator. Before he became prime minister, Johnson had quietly met Trump aide Stephen Miller, to swap speech writing tips.