May 19, 2022, 11:07

    Keir Starmer ‘weighing up pledge to resign’ if fined over Beergate

    Keir Starmer ‘weighing up pledge to resign’ if fined over Beergate

    Labour leader Keir Starmer could tell voters he will quit if he is fined by Durham Police over Beergate in a bid to challenge Boris Johnson over rule-breaking in Downing Street.

    Mr Starmer is expected to give a statement at 4pm and is aiming to get back on the front foot after cops reopened their probe into whether he broke Covid regulations in Durham while campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election last year.

    The Labour leader was understood to be in talks on Monday about whether to announce a pledge to quit, according to the Times, after pulling out of a scheduled event where he would have faced fresh questions.

    Those close to the leader are thought to be adamant he has not broken the law and are keen to regain the political initiative.

    It came as a YouGov poll found that 46% of voters thought the Labour leader should resign if he was fined for lockdown breaches.

    Allies insisted he was not “ducking scrutiny” by pulling out of the discussion, as he is investigated by police over the Durham beer-and-curry gathering in April last year.


    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

    Labour insiders believe a pledge to resign could pile pressure on the Prime Minister and Chancellor to quit after they were fined for lockdown breaches in Downing Street.

    Labour has not given an explanation as to why Mr Starmer's attendance at an Institute for Government event on Monday was cancelled, other than to say “plans change”.

    He would have been expected to take questions from the media.

    Labour insists the food was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules despite the ban on indoor socialising.

    But the Labour leader was facing calls to answer fresh questions after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.

    Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting told BBC Breakfast the opposition leader was not "dodging questions" and accused the Tories of "mudslinging".

    He said: “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 the leader 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.”



    Conservative universities minister Michelle Donelan accused Sir Keir of hypocrisy, having pressured Boris Johnson over Downing Street lockdown breaches, for which the Prime Minister was fined by police.

    Asked if the Labour leader should resign if fined, she told Sky News: “I think this is a decision for him, he’s going to have to search his soul after making this a top priority over the last few months at the expense of key issues like the rising cost of living, etc, but look, this is a decision for him.

    “My takeaway is that it does smack of sheer hypocrisy.”

    Labour MP Mary Foy denied reports that staff were drunk at the event held in the City of Durham MP’s constituency office.

    In a statement, she said: “These allegations about my staff are untrue.

    “I have already said that I and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit. I do not believe either I or my office staff broke any rules.”

    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.

    Mr Starmer 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”.

    Labour has indicated that as Mr Starmer was working the meal did not constitute a social event.

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