Beergate: Keir Starmer says police have not contacted him and insists team were ‘getting on with work’

Labour insists ‘world of difference’ between takeaway for work event and Partygate

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 04 May 2022 10:37
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Keir Starmer says police ‘haven’t spoken to me’

Sir Keir Starmer has said police in Durham have not contacted him again after closing an investigation into an alleged breach of lockdown rules.

The Labour leader has been under pressure from Tory MPs over the beer and takeaway meal he and team consumed during a campaign meeting last April in a Durham constituency office.

Although he appeared to avoid the question of whether or not Durham Constabulary had been in contact again on Tuesday, Sir confirmed on Wednesday they the force had not been back in touch.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, 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.”

Defending the takeaway meal on 30 April, he said the Labour team had “got on with their work” and again insisted that no Tier 2 rules in place at the time were broken.

Starmer also denied an electoral pact with the Lib Dems and refused to commit to reversing the government’s hike in national insurance, saying Labour “can’t possibly set out in detail what we will do” this far from a general election.

But he received the toughest grilling over the so-called “beergate” saga. “Restaurants and pubs were closed, so takeaways were really the only way you could eat,” the Labour leader told GMB.

Sir Keir added: “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.”

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.

Durham Constabulary has been asked by Tory MP Richard Holden to reconsider their assessment that no offence was committed during the meeting. The force has acknowledged receipt of his letter.

Enough food to feed around 30 people was reportedly at the campaign event in Labour MP Mary Foy’s constituency office. “Did all 30 really go back to work after they finished their biryanis? If not, they have breached the rules and police should investigate,” Mr Holden tweeted.

However, barrister and Covid regulation expert Adam Wagner has said it the takeaway meal could be viewed as “reasonably necessary for work”.

But Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said there is a “world of difference” between the industrial scale of rule-breaking at No 10 and Labour leaders’ so-called “Beergate” saga.

“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 No 10 but also from the cost-of-living crisis,” she told BBC Breakfast.

Meanwhile, Starmer told GMB that he still believed that the hike in national insurance was “wrong tax at the wrong time”, but would not spell out how he would match the expected extra annual revenue raised by the health and care levy.

“We will set out our plans when we get to the election in full, we’ve set out the principles that we will apply, it will be a fair taxation system, particularly for working people. At this stage two years out, I don’t know what the state of the economy will be.”

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