Keir Starmer accuses Tories of ‘mud-slinging’ over beer photo

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he will co-operate with Durham Police if they get back in contact with him after he was photographed drinking a beer.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is the latest Cabinet minister to back a further police investigation into allegations of an event in Durham involving Sir Keir when coronavirus regulations were in place.

She told Sky News: “If there is evidence brought to the police which makes them need to investigate whether or not those Covid rules were broken, they should do so.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast about the incident, Sir Keir said: “We stopped, we didn’t break the rules, the police looked at it months ago. The rest of it is pure politics from the Conservative Party.”



No rules were broken and this is simply being whipped up as mud-slinging by the Tories

Sir Keir Starmer

Asked again if he would co-operate with the police, he said: “Well, of course, but they looked at it before, there’s nothing that they found to be wrong. This is pure and simple distraction from the real issue, which is the cost of living.”

Sir Keir accused the Conservatives of “mud-slinging”.

Asked if there has been any contact from Durham Police in recent weeks, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The police looked at this months ago and came to a clear conclusion that was ‘no rules were broken’, and that’s because no rules were broken.

“Look, they’ve already concluded their investigation, no rules were broken and this is simply being whipped up as mud-slinging by the Tories.”

He added: “We were working, we stopped for food, no party, no rules were broken; I don’t know what I can add to that.”

Asked if he returned to work after the beer, he replied: “Yes, the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd.”

Sir Keir said he would take responsibility for his office originally stating that deputy leader Angela Rayner was not there the evening he was photographed having a beer.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It was a mistake that was made. I think we were asked months ago whether she was there and we wrongly said she wasn’t.

“It was a genuine mistake in the office. I’ll take responsibility for that, it’s my office, we’re a busy office, we made a mistake.

“We were asked again, I think either this week or last week. If I’d have been asked I would have said she was there because I knew she was there. But it was a genuine mistake in a busy office. I think everybody understands that happens in busy offices.”

Asked if some workers in Downing Street might say the same thing, Sir Keir responded: “Well, that’s up to them and that’s fine. I mean, they know what happened in their own offices.”

He later added that accidentally stating Ms Rayner was not present was “miles apart” from 50 fines being issued in relation to the Downing Street parties. “I don’t think there’s any equivalence here,” he added.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she would like Durham Police to take another look at the allegations (Leon Neal/PA)

(PA Archive)

Cabinet minister Ms Trevelyan told Sky News: “I understand that there is some work ongoing and I would absolutely encourage them to look at it.”

She added: “I’d like Durham Constabulary to look at everything and to, if they felt a fixed penalty notice was the appropriate statement of conclusion of it, in the same way the Metropolitan Police have here for a number of people who were in Downing Street at events that had been deemed unsuitable, then what I would want to see is that same fixed penalty notice.

“I don’t think those are resigning matters for anybody.”

The Labour leader was photographed drinking a beer during a meeting last April in the Durham constituency office of local MP Mary Foy.

In the light of the partygate scandal, Durham Police have been asked by Conservative MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) to reconsider their assessment that no offence was committed during the meeting.

At the time of the gathering relating to the Labour leader, 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.

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