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Starmer: Police have not contacted me over ‘beergate’

Sir Keir Starmer said the ‘beergate’ event involved people stopping work to eat and drink, and then carrying on with their work (James Manning/PA)
Sir Keir Starmer said the ‘beergate’ event involved people stopping work to eat and drink, and then carrying on with their work (James Manning/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed police have not been in touch with him over allegations he broke lockdown rules, as calls for a full probe into “beergate” continue to grow.

The Labour leader has come under pressure since footage emerged of him drinking a beer with colleagues in April 2021 in Durham, during campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election.

At the time of the gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open but social distancing rules, which included a ban on indoor mixing between households, remained in place.

In the light of the partygate scandal, Durham police have been asked by Conservative MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) to reconsider their assessment that no offence was committed during the meeting.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, though, the Labour leader confirmed the police “haven’t spoken to me”.

When asked if he had been questioned by officers since an initial probe after photos showed him having a beer and a takeaway with others last year, he said of the police: “I think they put out a statement last week saying they’re not reinvestigating and they haven’t spoken to me.”

Describing the incident, he said: “We’re on the road, at the end of the day, we’re in the office preparing. Now, that evening, from memory, we were doing an online event for members because we had this ‘get out the vote’ thing.

“At some point, this was in the evening, everybody’s hungry and then that takeaway was ordered. It was then delivered into the kitchen of the offices.

“Restaurants and pubs were closed, so takeaways were really the only way you could eat.

“So this was brought in and at various points people went through the kitchen, got a plate, had some food to eat and got on with their work.”

Sir Keir Starmer visits Bitterne Village
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said police have not contacted him (Peter Cary/PA)

It comes as The Sun reported Met Police bodyguards, who had accompanied Sir Keir to Durham, witnessed the Labour leader and aides drinking beers and eating £200 of curry.

According to the newspaper, witnesses suggest dozens of MPs and aides gathered at Durham Miners’ Hall, with the police car still there late into the evening.

On Twitter, Conservative MP Mark Jenkison (Workington) accused Sir Keir of evading questions during his interview on Good Morning Britain, claiming he did not deny 30 people where there.

He wrote: “Why won’t Keir Starmer just tell the truth?”

Tagging Durham Police on Twitter, he added: “How much more evidence do you need?”

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves insisted on BBC Breakfast there is a “world of difference” between the industrial scale of rule-breaking at Number 10 and the Labour leader’s “beergate” affair.

She said: “The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have been fined by the Metropolitan Police whereas Durham police – where this alleged incident took place – said there’s no case to answer.

“The police have been very clear that in 10 Downing Street rule-breaking did happen and in Durham, Keir Starmer did not break the rules.

Sunday Morning
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Tories are ‘mudslinging’ to distract from partygate and the cost-o-living crisis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“Boris Johnson has lied and lied again, and then covered up the lies to Parliament about what happened at number 10.

“There is a world of difference between the rule-breaking and the fines that the Prime Minister and his office have received compared to what Keir did – which is basically working all day in an office and stopping to have some food and a drink.

“Durham has been clear, there’s no case to answer. It didn’t break the rules and the Tory mudslinging is to try and distract from the rule-breaking at Number 10, but also from the cost-of-living crisis.”

Sir Keir previously admitted his office made a “genuine mistake” by wrongly claiming his deputy Angela Rayner was not there on the night he had a beer and takeaway.

On Tuesday, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan became the latest Cabinet minister to back a further police investigation into allegations of the gathering involving Sir Keir.

She told Sky News: “If there is evidence brought to the police which makes them need to investigate whether or not those Covid rules were broken, they should do so.”

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