Police review over Keir Starmer’s lockdown drinks: Probe into why officers let Labour leader off as it emerges local party held ‘quiz and social’ on night he visited and full video shows him swigging beer with colleagues
- Police are to consider claims that Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules in 2021
- A video from last April shows the Labour leader having a beer with colleagues
- Durham Constabulary previously rejected an offence was committed at the time
- However, the MP for West Durham Richard Holden asked the force to reconsider
Police last night opened the door to a full probe into claims that Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules when he was filmed drinking with party officials.
Durham Constabulary said it would consider a request from Tory MP Richard Holden to review a controversial decision that cleared the Labour leader.
Senior Conservatives insisted the force should now launch a full investigation into Sir Keir’s conduct, saying there appeared to be no difference between the event that he attended and the ‘birthday party’ in No 10 for which Boris Johnson was fined £50.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said that Sir Keir was a ‘hypocrite’ who should be ‘subjected to the same standard’ as the PM.
A 43-second video clip has emerged of him in the office of Mary Foy – Labour MP for the City of Durham – on April 30 last year.
Sir Keir Starmer was caught having a beer while mixing with workers in a constituency office in Durham in April 2021, Durham police have said they consider reviewing their decision that cleared him
Durham West MP Richard Holden wrote to Durham police (pictured) asking them to review their decision that cleared Kier Starmer of any wrongdoing with regards to breaking lockdown rules in April 2020
It shows Sir Keir laughing, chatting to colleagues and taking a swig from a bottle of beer after campaigning in the Hartlepool by-election. It also emerged yesterday that Durham Labour officials held a ‘quiz and social’ event on the evening that Sir Keir was in Miss Foy’s office.
Election visit that caused a storm
Keir Starmer drank his now-infamous beer with Labour comrades when England was still only slowly emerging from lockdown and strict laws remained in place against indoor socialising.
Labour’s leader was in the North East this time last year to campaign for the party’s candidates ahead of a crucial ‘Red Wall’ by-election as well as council and crime tsar polls.
He visited a gym in Hull on April 30, posing in boxing gloves, then went to the Liberty Steel mill in Hartlepool the next day, both of which were allowed under political campaigning guidance issued by the Government the previous month.
But in between the two campaign visits he was pictured holding a bottle and talking to others inside the City of Durham constituency office of Labour MP Mary Foy. Critics claim that this breached both the law in place at the time and the non-binding electioneering guidance.
Under the ‘Step 2’ restrictions in place between April 12 and May 17, the Government insisted: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.’
Only groups of six were allowed to meet outdoors and pubs could not serve drinks indoors, by law. The separate campaigning guidance allowed political activists to deliver leaflets and knock on voters’ doors.
But they were told: ‘You should not meet with other campaigners indoors.’
The document also stated clearly: ‘Meetings to organise and plan campaigns should be held online or over the phone. They should not take place in person.’
The election guidance also said that candidates’ and campaigners’ use of committee rooms on polling day ‘should be functional and not social’.
When the photo first emerged in January, Sir Keir said: ‘We are in the office, working in the office and we stopped for a takeaway and then we carried on working. And that is the long and the short of it.
‘There was no breach of the rules. There was no party and there was absolutely no comparison with the Prime Minister.’
Labour vehemently insisted that he had not participated in the online quiz, which it said had been hosted from a different building.
But last night, in another letter to Durham Constabulary, Mr Holden asked the force to investigate the quiz, saying it was clearly a ‘social’ and ‘pre-arranged gathering’ which would be in breach of Covid rules.
Mr Holden also claimed that in one of the online invitations to the event, Miss Foy had encouraged people to have a ‘greasy night’ – which he said was a term for drinking too much.
Durham’s deputy chief constable yesterday promised to speak to the investigations team about Mr Holden’s concerns relating to Sir Keir’s case, raising the prospect that it could be reinvestigated.
A spokesman for the force repeatedly refused to rule out a fresh probe.
Miss Dorries said: ‘Keir Starmer has used every trick in the book to attack the PM over his handling of events in No 10, yet he doesn’t want to be held to the same standard the PM has subjected himself to.
‘He’s a hypocrite who should fess up to what really happened in Durham and explain why he thinks it’s any different to the hyperbole he levelled at the PM.’
And she put pressure on Durham Constabulary to launch a full investigation, tweeting: ‘A lack of consistency in interpretation of the regulations needs examining – urgently.’
A senior government source said last night: ‘By his own admission, Keir Starmer was not working while he was boozing inside with his friends. He says this was between meetings so assuming this is true, there is absolutely no difference between this and what happened in Downing Street on the PM’s birthday.
‘The rules applied to the whole country so Durham police must take the same approach as the Met and open a criminal investigation into this event.’
Mr Holden said: ‘No one, not even Starmer himself can explain the difference between what he was doing and what he’s been slamming the Prime Minister for.
‘It’s time Starmer came clean. The British people deserve to know the facts from someone who aspires to be our PM, not hear more weasel words from a man who spent his life as a high-end London lawyer.’
Earlier this month, Mr Johnson received a fine from the Metropolitan Police for attending an event in No 10 on his birthday in 2020.
But Durham police have so far refused to launch an investigation into claims that Sir Keir broke the rules on April 30 last year. In February the force decided not to launch a probe after reviewing a video of the event and deciding it did not believe an offence had been ‘established’.
Mr Holden, MP for North West Durham, wrote to the force last week asking them to reconsider in light of Scotland Yard’s decision to fine the Prime Minister
He shared a letter from the Durham force’s deputy chief constable on social media, which contained the line: ‘I will make inquiries with the investigation team and will update you at the point at which I have been able to conclude those inquiries.’
The MP tweeted that police had left the door open to ‘re-examining the case’.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: ‘[We] were sent a letter by Richard Holden MP on April 22. As a courtesy, we have replied to Mr Holden to confirm we have received that letter and will consider its contents before responding in due course.’
Labour said it was wrong to interpret the letter as suggesting an investigation into whether Sir Keir broke coronavirus rules was being re-examined.
A spokesman added: ‘Some of the characterisation of the letter has been inaccurate.’
He insisted that the incident in question was a work event. Put to him that the police were ‘re-examining’ the investigation, he said: ‘I wouldn’t characterise the letter in that way.’
Mr Holden’s original letter to Durham Constabulary, which he also shared on social media, said the pictures of Sir Keir came at a time when indoor mixing between households was banned, and the location ‘was not the usual workplace of Sir Keir Starmer’.
The MP wrote: ‘The Metropolitan Police has since issued a fixed penalty notice to a number of politicians in relation to an event inside the Downing Street Cabinet room on June 19 2020, where individuals may have briefly celebrated a birthday at a work event.
‘In light of that decision, and the tests applied by the Metropolitan Police for the level of a Covid regulations breach, I believe there is a strong public interest in Durham Constabulary reviewing its decision not to investigate the Starmer incident further.’
Source: Read Full Article