I can’t stop dreaming about Keir Starmer – help!

Political nightmares: What does it mean if Keir Starmer has been in your dreams? (iStock/Getty)
Political nightmares: What does it mean if Keir Starmer has been in your dreams? (iStock/Getty)

I have a strange confession to make. I can’t stop dreaming about Keir Starmer. Over the past few months, and particularly since next month’s general election was called, the Labour leader has appeared in my nocturnal imaginings on a semi-regular basis – as much as any real person I know. He stalks my psyche like Freddy Krueger, if Krueger was less interested in slicing up teens and more concerned with winning the approval of “Stevenage Woman”. It turns out I’m not the only one – after I mentioned this phenomenon at work, a colleague confessed to having Starmer dreams as well. You too may have spent the last few weeks dreaming of Starmer, or Ed Davey, or even Nigel Farage. Whatever the case, this is a safe and judgement-free space.

My Starmer dreams aren’t violent. And no, before you ask, they’re not raunchy either. In fact, as dreams go, they’re pretty banal. In them, Starmer doesn’t really do anything of note, doesn’t utter so much as a “my father was a toolmaker”. The dreams take the form of some prosaic scenario – I’ll be at a house party with friends, for instance – and then he will simply be there, and I will spend the duration of the dream yelling at him, berating him, working myself into a veritable imaginative lather. (It may be worth pointing out here that I am actually not Starmer’s biggest fan.) They say you should never go to bed angry. But what if you keep waking up furious?

It could be worse, of course: better to be dream-stalked by the visage of Starmer than, say, Adolf Hitler, or Genghis Khan. If nothing else, there’s also a sort of distinctly British modesty to it, as if my dreams were being organised by some cloutless, third-rate talent booker. (“Count Dracula is a no… would you take John Prescott?”)

But what exactly is causing this personal Nightmare on Downing Street? I suspect it is a matter of political impotence. Maybe I’m subconsciously channelling my frustration around how voiceless I – and many others who are pro-immigration, pro-LGBT+ rights and anti-privatisation – currently feel when it comes to the Labour Party. If I can’t yell at the real Keir Starmer, this mental facsimile will have to do. Perhaps it’s something more abstract: Sigmund Freud might have suggested that this imaginary Starmer-shaped punching bag is in fact a stand-in for my father, or my mother, or has something to do with penises. But Freud, as we all know, was coked out of his gourd and it’s probably best to ignore him. (Besides, my dad would never be caught dead in the Arsenal home crowd.)

Ultimately, the hows and whys don’t matter so much. The crux of the issue is I want these dreams to stop. I need Starmer cut from the cast of my nighttime fantasies, written out abruptly like David Caruso in the second season of NYPD Blue. So I asked chartered psychologist Dr Mark Rackley to shed some light on my dreams, in the hope that I could, in the words of Labour’s manifesto, “change”.

“Dreams remain one of the great mysteries within psychological science,” he tells me. “And there is no common consensus as to why we dream or what purpose they serve.” As everyone likely knows first hand already, dreams, he says, can be “illogical”, have a “first-person perspective” and can “contain elements of waking life”. So far, so clear. But where does Starmer enter into this?

“In the run-up to the general election, this can create anticipatory anxiety around what will happen and provoke strong negative emotional responses such as anger, fear, frustration and hopelessness,” Dr Rackley continues. “We can fear that the election will bring negative change to our lives and that we are powerless to stop this change from happening. This actual reality can then get played out in the dreams that we have and can produce some strange experiences in our dreams.”

The man in my dreams: Keir Starmer, pictured in corporeal form on 5 June 2024 (Getty Images)
The man in my dreams: Keir Starmer, pictured in corporeal form on 5 June 2024 (Getty Images)

Politicians like Starmer and Rishi Sunak are, he continues, “characters in our life”, even if we do not know them personally. “As dreams are involuntary experiences that are created by our unconscious mind, we can have dreams about politicians, talking to them and arguing with them and this can feel real, as when we dream, the feelings that are produced stay with us,” he adds. “This type of dream relates to our reality and is triggered by events that are familiar to us.”

With all that said, is there any chance of stopping the dream? Of ridding my mind of Starmer via some kind of oneiric deep clean? It turns out it’s not that easy. “As dreams are involuntary experiences, we cannot predict or control them,” says Dr Rackley. “You cannot force the brain to produce or stop a dream; that is out of everyone’s control. The best we can do is seek to understand the process and not let the dream wreck our head too much!”

It may not be what I wanted to hear, but hey – perhaps it’s not the end of the world. If I were plagued by dreams of Sunak, I’m not sure I’d ever sleep again.