British Labor leader Keir Starmer has been accused by Tories of hypocrisy as he faces a police investigation over a lockdown curry and beer with colleagues.
Urham Constabulary is investigating claims that an evening event attended by the Labor leader with other senior party members and activists during last year’s election campaign may have breached pandemic social distancing rules.
Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi questioned why Mr Starmer is not resigning after Labor leader Boris Johnson called for his resignation amid investigations into the No 10 Partygate row.
Allies of Mr Starmer’s workers insisted he be cleared by police and there was a sharp contrast between him and the Prime Minister.
Durham Police said they reversed an earlier decision in the case that no crime had been committed after receiving “significant new information”.
Police have not revealed what additional details sparked the investigation, but The Times reported that a “key factor” was confirmation that Deputy Chairwoman Angela Rayner was in attendance on the evening. Labor had previously denied she was present.
The Daily Telegraph said the so-called “Beergate” probe will last up to six weeks, with questionnaires being sent to those suspected of breaking lockdown rules.
Mr Starmer, a former chief public prosecutor, told reporters in London on Friday – after returning from a winning streak across the country following the successes in the Labor Party’s local elections – that he did not believe the event had broken the rules.
That message was echoed by allies on Saturday, with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting telling the BBC he would not “entertain” the prospect of Mr Starmer resigning for allegedly breaking lockdown rules last April.
“I have absolute faith and belief that Keir Starmer did the right thing all along,” he said.
“He’s been saying that all along. He’s someone who practices what he preaches and like I said the police have looked at this before and haven’t found a case to answer.
“We are confident that this will be the case this time. I think the contrast between Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson will be even sharper because I actually think it’s ridiculous, from what we’ve seen Boris Johnson is still around and Conservative MPs haven’t ousted Boris Johnson.”
Mr Starmer had urged Mr Johnson to resign because he was being investigated by Scotland Yard and asked why the Labor leader was not following his own standard, Mr Streeting said: “Police looked at this beforehand, they didn’t find a case to answer , no action was taken.
“We expect that to be the result now.”
Asked whether Mr Starmer would resign if he had broken the law, Welsh Shadow Secretary Jo Stevens told Times Radio: “I think by the time we get to this situation – which I think is extremely unlikely given the police of Durham has already investigated this complaint and found no rules were broken – I’m sure Keir will make an explanation at this point.
“I think this is a non-story, a type of smear that has been continued over time in the local elections to try and keep up a Tory party that has been so badly damaged by the Prime Minister’s behaviour.”
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio: “We must let the police conduct their investigations and that is only right and responsible.
“However, I think the public will be uncomfortable with the hypocrisy. I think he used one in three of his PMQs to talk about parties instead of focusing on the cost of living.
“He tweeted himself and said if you are under investigation, a criminal investigation, then you should resign.”
Police faced mounting pressure to re-examine allegations of misconduct by the opposition leader in the final weeks of the local election campaign.
This comes after footage surfaced of Mr Starmer having a pint with allegedly up to 30 colleagues at a constituency office in Durham in April 2021 while campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election.
At the time of the gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor areas, including outdoor dining areas, were open, but social distancing rules, which included a ban on households mixing indoors, remained in effect.
Mr Starmer previously said that no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged offence, and the hotel where he and his colleagues were staying was not serving food. “So if you didn’t get takeout, our team didn’t eat that evening”.
In January, Mr Starmer said the Prime Minister “must do the decent thing and resign” after being embroiled in allegations of lockdown breaches.
Ms Rayner also questioned Mr Johnson’s suitability to be prime minister, writing on Twitter: “Boris Johnson’s Downing Street is under police investigation. How on earth can he think he can stay prime minister?”
Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have already been fined for breaching Covid laws.
https://www.independent.ie/news/british-labour-leader-keir-starmer-accused-of-hypocrisy-over-lockdown-beer-and-curry-41624598.html UK Labor leader Keir Starmer has been accused of hypocrisy over lockdown beer and curry