Beergate: Labour ‘to present evidence to police proving Starmer didn’t break rules’

Time-stamped WhatsApp conversations could be lifeline for Labour leader, report says

Liam James
Monday 09 May 2022 21:50
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Starmer vows to resign if fined over potential Covid breach

Labour has prepared a dossier of evidence it will hand over to police to prove Sir Keir Starmer worked beyond 1am on the night he was pictured drinking during lockdown, it has been reported.

Sir Keir has vowed to resign as Labour leader if he is fined over a possible breach of Covid rules at the gathering in April 2021.

The event at which Sir Keir and his team shared curry and beer in the constituency office of Mary Foy MP is being investigated by Durham Police - but Labour insists it cannot be compared with the parties held in Downing Street during lockdowns.

The Guardian reported that party officials have compiled evidence they claim will prove the curry and beers were part of a long working day ahead of the Hartlepool by-election, meaning the behaviour of the leader and his subordinates was within the rules.

The report said the evidence includes time-stamped logs of WhatsApp conversations, documents and video edits and will be handed to police. The Whatsapp messages are reportedly from a group set up for the Durham visit where tweets and scripts were discussed until the early hours.

Messages from at least two senior aides - both of whom were at Ms Foy’s office at Durham Miners Hall - sent queries about work matters between 10.30pm and 1am, the Guardian said.

A party source told the paper: “We have been totally clear that no rules were broken. We will provide documentary evidence that people were working before and after stopping to have food.”

Elsewhere, a leaked planning note showed Sir Keir and Ms Foy were scheduled to have dinner in the Labour office where he was working from 8.40pm to 10pm, and then return to his hotel.

The Conservatives claimed this showed the meal was pre-planned, blowing apart the defence that the takeaway was needed because there was nowhere else to eat.

But legal experts said it could save the Labour leader as it proved the gathering was for work.

The Beergate scandal escalated on Friday when police said they had opened an inquiry after being presented with new evidence.

The investigation forced Sir Keir to put his political career on the line by promising in a speech on Monday to resign as leader if he is given a fixed penalty notice, though he stressed he was “absolutely clear” no rules were broken.

He said: “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the rules must follow them.

“This matters. It matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules apply to them.”

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