Keir Starmer considers pledge to resign if police find he broke Covid laws

Labour leader will make a statement at 4pm on Monday

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 09 May 2022 16:46
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Starmer vows to resign if fined over potential Covid breach

Sir Keir Starmer is mulling with close allies whether to commit to resigning as Labour leader if he is issued with a fine by Durham police for a breach of Covid rules.

The Independent understands the Labour leader will make a statement at 4pm, after cancelling a morning speech amid further questions of a beer-and-curry gathering in April 2021.

Sir Keir, who has repeatedly called on Boris Johnson to resign after being issued with a fixed penalty notice over the Partygate scandal, has insisted he is “confident no rules were broken”.

Despite initially deciding not take action when images of the Labour leader consuming beer first appeared, Durham Police announced on Friday it would launch an investigation into a potential breach of Covid laws.

Labour has repeatedly said the event at Durham Miners’ Hall in April 2021 was within the rules, as it was held between work events and staff were campaigning in the Hartlepool by-election.

Sir Keir, however, is now considering the high-risk strategy of announcing that he would resign as Labour leader if the police conclude he has broken Covid rules for his involvement in the event.

The party is yet to formally comment, but a Labour source told The Independent there will be “some movement in the next few hours”. It was later announced Sir Keir will deliver a statement at 4pm.

The Labour leader was understood to be in talks with close allies on Monday after pulling out a planned speech at the Institute for Government (IfG) on “meeting the challenges the country faces” ahead of the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament.

The party earlier declined to explain why the appearance was cancelled, other than to say “plans change”.

Sir Keir also cancelled his planned attendance at a memorial event for the former Conservative cabinet minister, James Brokenshire, on Monday morning.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting earlier said he did not know why Sir Keir cancelled his appearance at the event but insisted he was not avoiding scrutiny.

Mr Streeting told BBC Breakfast: “I have no idea why he cancelled the event and I certainly didn’t ask before I came on because I think it’s such a trivial issue.

“The idea that Keir has been dodging questions… I mean he’s been out all weekend, even after a local election campaign where we did very well, he’s been out thanking Labour teams, particularly in the places that we did particularly well in these elections.”

Mr Streeting added that Sir Keir has faced journalists “wherever he’s been”, including as recently as Saturday, adding: “The idea that Keir is somehow ducking scrutiny is simply not true.”

On Monday, a poll by YouGov also found that 46 per cent of the public believed Sir Keir should resign if he is fined by Durham police for breaching Covid rules. A majority — 54 per cent — claimed that the Labour leader either “probably” or “definitely” flouted the rules.

Previous surveys, however, have found a greater proportion of people want Boris Johnson to resign over the Partygate scandal, with an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation probing 12 separate events in No 10 and government buildings.

At the time of the Durham 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.

Sir Keir previously said no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, told reporters on Saturday: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.

“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

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