In never a particularly friendly context, ‘Keith’ appears in tweets, articles and memes online and it leaves outsiders baffled.
Where did this start? Why do people do it? We had to have answers. We had to have closure.
So, to the depths of Reddit and other internet nooks and crannies we travelled to find out why people are obsessed with calling Keir Starmer ‘Keith’
Keir Hardie was a Scottish trade unionist who founded the Labour Party and served as its first leader from 1906 to 1908. Why should you care? Because many say that Keir Starmer is named Keith to distance himself from Hardie, believing that his policies are not left-wing enough to warrant being named after the socialist.
Writing in The Canary Kerry-Anne Mendoza says just that:
“Originally, the Left rebranded Keir as ‘Keith’ to dissociate him from the Labour legend he’s named after”.
People posting on a Reddit forum about the issue corroborate Mendoza’s claims, as do a few people who were brave enough to go on the record about it with us.
But this is not the only explanation. Others say calling Keir ‘Keith’ is a way of mocking Starmer’s personality, or lack thereof.
Mendoza writes: ‘Keith’ has come to epitomise Starmer’s beige banality. A man with all the charm of the pub bore, who’d find himself outperformed by a talking potato sack. His nasal delivery gives him the sound of a Poundland Ed Miliband, who was himself a Poundland Gordon Brown.”
Jack Boughey, a member of the Labour Party tells us: “The man is bland as vanilla and so is the name Keith, so that may also have something to do with it.”
Meanwhile, writing for the political blog The Social Review, Morgan Jones uses softer language and accuses Keith of being a boring dad name.
We are sure these three will now be on the top of Starmer’s list of people to deliver speeches at his birthday parties – and we would like to apologise profusely to any of our readers named Keith, and assure them that the views expressed by our sources do not reflect the views of the publication. Just a disclaimer for you all.
Onwards we go.
Posting on the Reddit thread, one user says that people are overthinking the joke. “It's just juvenile,” they write. “No depth to it.”
And when someone raises the query on lawyer forum RollOnFriday, someone replies “Bantz.”
Meanwhile, a blogger known as ‘A Very Public Sociologist’ writes:
“Keith is just a name used to take the piss out of Keir Starmer.
In my opinion, one cannot wind up the self-important p***ks on the party’s right wing enough. And this is what, forgive me, "Keithism" is about. Yes, it’s an in-term with meta-signification picked up and noted by the cognoscenti, but it’s not some bulls**t Twitter tribe warpaint.”
Could technology hold the answer to our mystery? Some say phones and laptop keyboards autocorrecting the less common name to is why people call him Keith.
Ravi Patel, political blogger tells us: “I think it started off because Keir is often autocorrected to "Keith" even in major publications like Haaretz.
Indeed, Sky News’ chief political correspondent Jon Craig accidentally called him Keith earlier this month.
Patel tell us about “apocryphal stories bandied about that Starmer was born Keith but had his name changed by deed poll to Keir on his 18th birthday when he decided he wanted to one day be prime minister” but says this is most likely a rumour.
Indy100 contacted Keith, sorry, Keir, to find out if he knows about the joke and whether he had any thoughts on it. Unbelievably, he didn’t reply.
But there we have it, the answers we crave, the answers we deserve. Now, where’s our Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting?