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Keir Starmer ‘WILL be investigated over beergate’: Durham Police ‘set to confirm probe’ as Labour leader toasts election day successes
- Police have been under huge pressure to investigate the so-called ‘Beergate’ event in April 2021 in Durham
- Keir Starmer admitted sharing a curry with up to 30 Labour officials at offices of Durham MP Mary Foy
- Police held off announcement of any probe having waited for the local election period to end last night
- Some critics have questioned timing of announcement when Boris has investigation hanging over him
Durham Police had said they were sure the Labour leader had not breached coronavirus rules when he and party aides had beers and a takeaway April in 2021, when millions of Britons were banned from mixing indoors in most circumstances.
But Sir Keir was filmed drinking a bottle of beer with colleagues at the event at the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy in the run-up to last year’s local elections, being roundly criticised as he repeatedly wriggled in interviews this week when asked about the incident.
And following mounting pressure and repeated questions over Sir Keir’s version of events, its detectives will investigate the claims fully, according to the Daily Telegraph, leaving the Labour leader facing the possibility of a fine, which he said last month meant the Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak must resign.
Police had said they would wait to announce it due to the local election period, which ended at 10pm yesterday. But critics have pointed out that Boris Johnson has had his police probe hanging over him for weeks before millions went to the polls.
It came as the Labour leader Sir Keir visited Barnet this morning after and claimed his party was ‘back on track’ after the Corbyn era having taken three London councils from the Tories.
But voting guru John Curtice said Labour still does not look in a position to win a majority at the next general election and the left-wing campaign group Momentum goaded that the figures were ‘distinctly underwhelming’ and had ‘gone backwards’.
As police appeared ready to launch a full probe as election results come in, it also emerged today:
- Boris Johnson brushed off demands to quit from furious Tories today as the party suffered a local election bloodbath in London with Mr Johnson insisting that the results were ‘mixed’ and not as apocalyptic as some had predicted;
- After a campaign dominated by sleaze and Partygate, the Conservatives lost the totemic strongholds of Wandsworth and Westminster – which they have held since 1978 and 1964 respectively – to Labour. Labour also seized Barnet and Southampton, while West Oxfordshire and Worcester went to no overall control;
- But Sir Keir’s party lost Kingston upon Hull City Council to the resurgent Liberal Democrats, who appeared to be the early winners and were making gains across the country;
- The Lib Dems are also ’99 per cent sure’ that the Tories will lose control of West Oxfordshire – which includes ex-prime minister David Cameron’s former seat Witney. It was a similar story for the Green Party who chipped away at Conservative and Labour seats in England;
Police will probe this event in April 2021 after Sir Keir struggled to answer questions about the event at Durham Miners Hall, which took place at a time when almost all indoor socialising was banned
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives to meet with winning Labour Councillors in Barnet today after good results in London but mixed results outside the capital
English council results so far
Holds: Broxbourne, Thurrock, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Epping Forest, Basildon, Rochford, Brentwood, Harlow, Rushmoor, Redditch, Fareham, Amber Valley, North East Lincolnshire, Tamworth, Dudley, Bexley, Hillingdon
Losses: Worcester (to no overall control), Wandsworth (to Labour), Westminster (to Labour), Southampton (to Labour), West Oxfordshire (to NOC), Barnet (to Labour)
Gains: Cumberland (from NOC), Wandsworth (from Tories), Westminster (from Tories), Southampton (from Tories), Barnet (from Tories)
Holds: Sunderland, Halton, South Tyneside, Chorley, Tameside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sefton, Stevenage, Lincoln, Sandwell, Exeter, Ipswich, Wigan, Coventry, Salford, North Tyneside, Preston, Oldham, Waltham Forest, Wolverhampton, Barnsley, Ealing, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge
Loss: Kingston-upon-Hull (to Lib Dems)
Gain: Kingston-upon-Hull (from Labour)
What other results are expected and when?
Around 9am: Counting begins for a further 71 councils in England and all councils in Scotland and Wales.
Labour was under pressure last night to release the Beergate Tapes following Sir Keir’s suggestion that he recorded video clips after his late-night takeaway.
Having said the curry was consumed during a break from work, Sir Keir has struggled to prove that he carried out any duties after he was filmed holding a bottle of beer at Durham Miners Hall at 10.04pm.
An ‘online event for members’ cited as an example concluded at 9.18pm.
Sir Keir has also said he recorded ‘pieces to camera’ for social media – but just one Facebook clip appears to have been recorded that day, and it was shot during daylight hours.
‘Shifty Starmer’s accounts of what happened at his beer and curry night just don’t add up,’ Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, said.
‘What were these videos he was allegedly filming, and why won’t he release them?’
The London Mayor gave a distinctly half-hearted defence of Keir Starmer suggesting the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once.
The extraordinary comments came after days in which an increasingly tetchy Sir Keir has struggled to shake off questions about consuming beer and curry with up to 30 aides on an election visit to Durham last year.
In an interview on Talk TV last night, Mr Khan was asked to explain how that differed from the June 2020 episode when Mr Johnson was presented with a cake in the Cabinet Room – which has seen both him and Rishi Sunak fined.
Mr Khan initially started referring to other alleged incidents in No10, before conceding: ‘I think you make a fair point. If there was one occasion where an incident happened in Downing Street I think it’s a fair point to say there is equivalence.
‘We now know though there were many occasions and a culture versus one occasion having a beer and a curry at the end of a campaigning day.’
A picture emerged of what may have been his official car (above) in Durham that evening. This raises the prospect that his police protection team might be able to provide bombshell testimony, in the same way that officers are being asked for their recollections of ‘Partygate’ events in Downing Street
Sadiq Khan gave a distinctly half-hearted defence of Keir Starmer suggesting the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once
A former chief constable yesterday said Durham police should ‘reconsider’ their initial dismissal of the case in the light of ‘new information’.
And a Tory MP urged the force to speak to Sir Keir’s Scotland Yard bodyguards about what they witnessed at the now notorious event on April 30 last year, when the Labour leader was filmed enjoying a late night beer with activists.
For the second day running, Sir Keir struggled to answer questions about the event at Durham Miners Hall, which took place at a time when almost all indoor socialising was banned.
The event has drawn comparisons with the so-called ‘birthday party’ in No 10 which resulted in Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak each being fined £50 – and prompted Sir Keir to call for them to resign.
But Sir Keir said it was a ‘smear’ to suggest he breached the regulations while having ‘a takeaway and a beer while I was working late at night’.
Labour sources say that Sir Keir was drinking in Durham late in the evening because the takeaway arrived an hour overdue, The Times reports.
A source familiar with the events rejected claims that 30 people had been present present, suggesting instead that there were roughly 15 — including Angela Rayner.
At the time it had been against the law to gather indoors with people from outside households or support bubbles – though an exemption was in place for work purposes.
While Durham police looked into video footage in February and said it would not take action, two cabinet ministers want police to investigate again.
Tory MP Richard Holden said ‘incontrovertible’ evidence that Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was at the Durham gathering showed Labour had ‘lied’ about events a year ago
Mr Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, wrote to Durham Constabulary (pictured) a week ago asking it to reconsider a probe in light of the Met’s fine
Former chief constable of Manchester, Sir Peter Fahy, said Durham police should look again at the evidence – but stressed that the events seemed ‘starkly different’ to the issue of Downing Street parties.
Confronted on ITV’s Good Morning Britain with a copy of yesterday’s Mail, the Labour leader insisted there was ‘no breach of the rules’, despite lockdown laws at the time banning almost all indoor socialising.
However, he did not challenge reports that the Friday night gathering was attended by up to 30 people.
Labour officials are said to have ordered £200 of takeaway curries for staff at the end of a long week on the campaign trail.
Sir Keir told ITV’s Richard Madeley: ‘This was brought in and at various points people went into the kitchen, got a plate, had some food to eat and got on with their work.’
At the time, lockdown laws allowed staff to meet indoors if doing so was ‘reasonably necessary for work’. However, official guidance on buffet-style serving was clear.
It stated: ‘There should not be any sharing of food and drink by staff who do not share a household. Minimise self-serving options for food and drink. As far as possible, food served and/or displayed should be individually wrapped to minimise contact and avoid spread of infection.’
Having claimed his curry – and beer – were consumed during a break from work, yesterday saw Sir Keir struggle to say what duties he carried out after he was filmed holding his bottle at 10.04pm.
The ‘online event for members’ cited as an example concluded at 9.18pm.
Sir Keir also stated that he had recorded ‘pieces to camera’ for social media, but just one Facebook clip appears to have been recorded that day – and it was shot during daylight hours.
Cabinet minister Nigel Adams accused the Labour leader of talking ‘bull***’ and ‘dodging’ key questions.
Richard Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, told his local force that an event involving 30 people was ‘well above the number allowed to meet indoors under the regulations (at the time), and definitely not necessary for work purposes’.
In a letter seen by the Daily Mail, Mr Holden noted that bystanders were now coming forward who were not interviewed when the police initially dismissed the case last year after reviewing a 43-second video filmed by a passer-by.
The letter to Durham’s deputy chief constable Ciaron Irvine continued: ‘Given the serious nature of this new testimony, I hope you will be reaching out to the witnesses involved, as well as the Metropolitan Police officers present at the event, as part of your investigation into what took place.’
‘I think, once again, it highlights that a lot of the legislation around coronavirus was confused, so I think the police have been struggling.’
A Durham Constabulary spokesman said yesterday: ‘We have received a number of recent communications on this subject, which we are considering and will respond in due course.’
Source: Daily Mail