It has been one of the more intriguing rumours about the leader of the opposition, that Keir Starmer was the inspiration for Mark Darcy, the buttoned-up lawyer who battled with the rather more open-shirted Daniel Cleaver for Bridget Jones’s heart.
Now Helen Fielding, the author of the Bridget Jones books, has finally laid the matter to rest. Darcy is not in fact based on the Labour leader, she insisted, though she thinks they are very similar.
In an interview with the Radio Times, Fielding said Starmer reminded her of Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones films, particularly during prime minister’s questions.
Asked if Starmer was the real Darcy, Fielding said: “Well, I think he’s fantastic. But no, I’ve never met him. They are very similar, though. He’s so good and decent and intelligent, but so buttoned up. I always want to say: ‘Come on, Keir, loosen your tie, ruffle up your hair.’ He doesn’t think of himself as sexy, but he’s really sexy. And when he and Boris spar, it does remind me of Mark and Daniel.”
When Bridget first appeared in a newspaper column in 1995, Starmer was a human rights lawyer who specialised in David v Goliath battles, helping the environmentalists sued by McDonald’s over a leaflet criticising the company’s practices and working pro bono for the National Union of Mineworkers.
Fielding was a “singleton” about town when Bridget was born, after the Independent asked if she would write a first-person column about trying to find a boyfriend in London. “I said no because [ironically enough] I thought it would be embarrassing and exposing. Then Charlie Leadbeater, a senior editor, suggested I write as an imaginary character, and I thought “Yessss!”” she wrote years later.
She was subsequently open about the fact that Bridget had partly been created in her own image, but she never revealed who had inspired her character’s love interests. As Starmer’s career soared, first to become the director of public prosecutions and then to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, rumours grew that he was the real Mark Darcy.
Fielding was happy to keep people guessing. On Desert Island Discs in July, she said: “I had several different boyfriends, all very gorgeous. It’s amazing the number of people that lay claim to be Daniel or Mark, including Keir Starmer.”
Starmer has always said he has no idea if he inspired Fielding to create the Darcy character. He told ITV in January: “Everybody asks me this question when they should be asking her because she knows the answer and I don’t.”
When Starmer was asked the question during his appearance on Desert Island Discs last month, he said he had already come to terms with the idea that Darcy was not based on him.
Now, though, the case is closed.