Starmer did not break lockdown rules, police find

Politics

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner have been cleared of breaking lockdown rules on a visit to Durham last year, following a police investigation.

Both had vowed to step down if they were found to have breached regulations during a trip to the city in April 2021, ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.

None of those present at the event, dubbed beergate, have been issued with a fine.

Responding on Twitter, Sir Keir said: “I’ve always said no rules were broken when I was in Durham.

“The police have completed their investigation and agreed: there is no case to answer.

“For me, this was always a matter of principle. Honesty and integrity matter. You will always get that from me.”

Mr Rayner said: “We’ve always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham.

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“The police have completed their investigation and agreed, saying that there is no case to answer.

“Integrity matters in politics. The contrast with the behaviour of this disgraced Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer.”

Sir Keir was videoed drinking a bottle of beer over a takeaway curry with colleagues in the offices of Mary Foy MP.

It later emerged Ms Rayner was also at the gathering.

At the time, 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.

Durham Police initially investigated and found there was no evidence of rule-breaking, but looked at the case again following the intervention of North West Durham Tory MP Richard Holden in April.

Durham Police said in a statement: “Following the emergence of significant new information, an investigation was launched by Durham Constabulary into a gathering at the Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, Durham on 30th April 2021. That investigation has now concluded.

“A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering.

“Following the application of the evidential Full Code Test, it has been concluded that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.

“Accordingly, Durham Constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken.”

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Starmer: ‘I would do the right thing’

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham. The police have completed their investigation and have agreed saying that there is no case to answer.”

Sir Keir had vowed to do the “right thing” and stand down if he was fined in relation to a gathering in Labour offices in Durham ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.

The move was viewed as a huge gamble, with Sir Keir placing his future in the hands of Durham Police after it was announced officers would reopen an investigation into the event where he drank beer and ate curry.

The Labour leader has consistently denied the gathering was against the rules, arguing that he and those present were working, paused to eat food during a break and then returned to their duties.

Labour has sought to contrast Sir Keir’s actions with those of Boris Johnson, who has refused to quit as prime minister after being fined by the Met Police over a gathering in Number 10 in June 2020 to mark his 56th birthday.

The party had expressed confidence that its leader would be cleared, with sources saying they would provide officers with proof that the Durham gathering was a work event.

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