Beergate vs Partygate – what are the key differences

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Months after Boris Johnson was hit by revelations of Downing Street parties during strict Covid rules, Sir Keir Starmer is facing his own allegations of breaches.

The names may be similar – “Partygate” and “Beergate” – but the gatherings and the politicians’ reactions to them differ.

Both men have been under intense scrutiny for their involvement in events that took place during when the nation faced strict rules over socialising in a bid to curb the spread of Covid.

While the prime minister has resisted calls to resign over Partygate, it has been suggested it played a role in Tory defeats in local elections. One of his own MPs said public anger over the scandal was the “clear message” sent by voters.

Meanwhile Sir Keir is facing renewed attention over a meal in Durham last spring after police opened an investigation.

He is being accused of hypocrisy by Tories following his fierce criticism of those involved in Partygate.

But can we compare the two? And where are they different?

Let’s take a look:

What happened?

Sir Keir is facing allegations from opponents that a beer-and-curry gathering in Durham in April last year breached lockdown rules.

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 faced fresh questions after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.

Meanwhile Partygate centres around a number of social events held in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office during strict Covid restrictions.

This includes a “bring your own booze” party, leaving dos and reports of a surprise gathering for the prime minister’s birthday. The Independent has run through all party allegations here.

What were the rules at the time?

At the time of the Durham event, Covid rules meant that indoor gatherings were prevented apart from for work purposes.

As Partygate spans nearly a year, the laws and restrictions changed between events.

For example, the first one – a wine and pizza gathering was held in the No 10 rose garden in May 2020 – took place while people from different households could only meet one-on-one outdoors.

When two leaving drinks reportedly happened the day before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral nearly a year later, indoor mixing was banned in England.

Are police involved?

Yes to both.

Last week, Durham Constabulary said it would investigate the Beergate gathering for potential breaches of Covid laws following “significant” new information. It had previously decided to take no action over it.

The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into Partygate earlier this year following intense pressure and has been issuing fines ever since. It is looking at 12 events as part of this “Operation Hillman”.

Who has been fined?

So far, no one has been fined over Beergate.

In contract, more than 50 fixed penalty notices have been handed out by the Met over Partygate – including to Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

What have the party leaders said?

On Monday, Sir Keir has vowed to resign as Labour leader if he is fined by police over Beergate, saying this would be the “right thing” to do. But he has insisted no rules were broken at the beer-and-curry gathering.

Mr Johnson – still prime minister – has obviously not resigned after receiving his Partygate fine. Instead, he offered the British public a “full apology” and also apologised to MPs in parliament.

What have their own MPs said?

Senior Tories called for Mr Johnson to go after he received a fixed penalty notice in April. Others defended him, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Grant Shapps, who said the PM was “mortified” but did not break Covid laws with “malice” nor “intent”.

Close allies of Sir Keir have also rushed to his defence, including Lisa Nandy – who called her boss “Mr Rules” who isolated six times in the pandemic – and Wes Streeting, who said the party was not “entertaining” the idea of the leader stepping down as no rules were broken.

Dianne Abbot said the Labour leader should “consider his position” if he is fined but thought there was “a lot of hype built up by the Tory press” over Beergate.

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