Keir Starmer joined an international grouping closely linked to US and UK intelligence while he was serving in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Declassified has found.
The Trilateral Commission describes itself as a “global membership organisation” which seeks “to discuss and propose solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems”. Its meetings are strictly off-the-record.
Membership records seen by Declassified show Starmer joined the Trilateral Commission at some point between March 2017 and October 2018. He left at some point between April 2021 and June 2022.
Starmer was a member of the Trilateral Commission alongside two former heads of the CIA, and spoke at one of its London events alongside the former heads of MI5 and GCHQ.
The current Labour leader served as Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow Brexit secretary from 2016-19. In this role, he was integral to the push for a second referendum on exiting the European Union, a position that many fault for Labour’s catastrophic performance in the 2019 election.
Starmer is the only British former member of the Commission who is now in public service, according to the group’s latest information.
James Schneider, who was Corbyn’s spokesman while he was leader, told Declassified: “Starmer didn’t inform us that he was joining the Trilateral Commission while serving in the shadow cabinet. If he had, we would have put a stop to it, like we did when he tried to take an inappropriate outside job with city law firm Mischon de Reya while shadow Brexit secretary.”
Schneider added: “Membership of the Trilateral Commission, a body dedicated to promoting corporate power, was plainly incompatible with Labour’s then-stated policies of redistributing wealth and power from the few to the many.”
When asked if he was surprised to discover that Starmer had joined the group without informing Corbyn’s team, Schneider replied: “No. Dishonesty is Keir Starmer’s hallmark.”
Starmer did not respond to Declassified’s questions about his membership—and never declared it to parliament as some other British parliamentarians have done.
David Rockefeller, who was chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, was close to the CIA at the time he set up the Trilateral Commission. Declassified files show him being invited in as a guest speaker to lecture the agency’s staff in 1978, and he went into CIA headquarters to meet its director Stansfield Turner in 1980.
As far back as 1958, Rockefeller had been exchanging letters with CIA director Allen Dulles on strategy in the cold war with Russia.
Declassified has seen the Trilateral Commission’s membership records from 2011 to 2022 (posted at the end of this article). In this period, Starmer was one of only two British MPs who were members while serving in parliament.
The other one was Rory Stewart, who was elected a Conservative MP in 2010 and served as a minister in the governments of David Cameron and Theresa May. He joined the Commission sometime in 2011-12, according to the group’s membership records, and left during 2015-16.
In 2019, a “security source” told the Daily Telegraph Stewart served seven years as an MI6 officer before he moved into politics. Stewart’s father was a senior figure in the agency.
Stewart was also chair of the secret intelligence-linked group Le Cercle from 2013-14. This role proved controversial when it was revealed he did not declare the position despite being a member of parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs Committee at the time.
Le Cercle was described by former Conservative minister Alan Clark as “a right-wing think (or rather thought) tank, funded by the CIA, which churns Cold War concepts around”. David Rockefeller was a guest speaker at early Le Cercle meetings.
In the latest membership rolls for the Trilateral Commission, Starmer is listed as one of just five former European members who are now in public service. The list also includes the prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen.
On the US side former members now in public service include secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state under President Nixon, is a lifetime trustee of the organisation.
The Commission has long had representatives from the US intelligence community as members. During his time as a member, Starmer served alongside two former heads of the CIA: John Deutch, director from 1995-6, and David Petraeus, director from 2011-12.
Jami Miscik, the CIA deputy director for intelligence from 2002-5, also sat alongside him.
Also members with Starmer were John Negroponte, director of US national intelligence under George W Bush, and two former chairmen of the US National Intelligence Council, Joseph Nye Jnr. and Richard Cooper.
Corbyn on the radar
Jeremy Corbyn had been on the radar of the CIA in the 1980s. The agency declassified some files about Labour in 2017, soon after he was elected leader. They were extensively covered by the British media and contained two specific references to Corbyn, who was a backbench Labour MP at the time.
One file noted Corbyn’s support in 1986 for an El Salvadoran trade union federation, Fenastras, which was linked to Marxist guerrillas during the country’s civil war, while the Americans backed the military government.
Corbyn was also mentioned in a US diplomatic cable sent from Istanbul in 2002, and published by WikiLeaks, describing a protest in the city against the US push for war in Iraq, which embassy staff apparently monitored.
“Union leaders made speeches and the crowd chanted anti-US and anti-war slogans including ‘No to Imperialist War,’ and ‘We Will Not Be American Soldiers’”, the cable noted, adding that “speakers included a British Member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn from the Labor Party.”
“We won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back.”
After Corbyn’s election to leader of the Labour Party in 2015, US concern grew.
In June 2019, then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited the UK and was recorded saying privately: “It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”
Starmer was serving on the Trilateral Commission at the time.
Pompeo himself had served as CIA director from 2017-18 and Corbyn recently told Declassified he believed his comments were intended as “a quite deliberate message” to him. Corbyn then mentioned the CIA-organised overthrow of Chile’s democratically-elected president Salvador Allende in 1973.
Starmer spoke on Saturday 4 November 2017 at the Commission’s 41st European annual meeting in London.
Also on his panel was Michael Gove, then Conservative minister for the environment, and Lord Maude, a Conservative peer who has been part of the Commission for years. They debated: “What is Britain’s place in a changing Europe?”
The Commission’s meetings are all strictly-off-the-record so it is not known what was said.
It is also unclear if Starmer was already a member of the Commission at this point, or if it was at this event that he was recruited to the organisation. The Labour leader did not respond to Declassified’s request for clarification.
The Commission also has access to other agencies within British intelligence.
Documents seen by Declassified show that later that day, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, chaired a discussion on “cyber security” with Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, the UK’s largest spy agency.
Declassified has previously revealed that the year after Starmer protected MI5 chief Sir Jonathan Evans from possible prosecution over his agency’s role in CIA torture, the then senior public prosecutor went to Evans’s farewell drinks, paid for by MI5.
The Commission also has access to other agencies within British intelligence. In 2018, Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, spoke at the Commission’s plenary meeting in Singapore, according to documents seen by Declassified.
Senior British corporate figures also served alongside Starmer, including Vivienne Cox, who has been on the board of oil and gas firm BG Group, mining giant Rio Tinto, and the Department for International Development.
Brian Gilvary, recently chief financial officer at BP, and Sir John Kingman, chairman of Legal & General, are current members.
Declaration of interest
Three unelected British Lords are currently members of the Commission. One notable member is Lord Sedwill, formerly UK national security adviser.
The two others are Conservatives: Lord Maude, a minister under Margaret Thatcher and a former chairman of the Conservative Party, and Lord Willetts, who once headed Thatcher’s policy unit.
Recent members have also included Conservative life peer Baroness Moyo, a Zambian-born former Goldman Sachs banker. Most of these Lords have registered their membership of the Trilateral Commission with parliament under their non-financial interests—something Starmer never did.
Prominent Labour figures Peter Mandelson and David Miliband have also been members in recent years.
Two current Conservative MPs have also been funded by the Trilateral Commission, according to parliamentary records. In November 2022, the organisation paid £2,230 for Sajid Javid, the former Chancellor under Boris Johnson, and his wife, to attend its meeting in Athens, Greece.
Then in March this year, the group paid £381 for Alok Sharma, former Conservative business secretary, to speak at its plenary meeting in New Delhi, India.
Lord Maude’s expenses had also been paid by the Commission to attend one of its meetings in November 2000 in Milan, Italy, records show.
The Trilateral Commission did not respond to Declassified’s request for comment.