Keir Starmer Pledges To Resign If Handed Police Fine Over Beer And Curry Event
Keir Starmer has pledged to resign if he is found to have breached lockdown rules and is fined by Durham Police (Alamy)
Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he will resign if he receives a police fine over a campaign event in Durham during lockdown.
An investigation has been re-opened by officers into a dinner during a visit to the city on April 30 last year, where Starmer was pictured drinking beer as he and campaign staff ate curry.
Having called on Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to step down after they received fixed penalty notices for events in Downing Street that breached lockdown rules, the leader of the opposition has now promised to stand aside if he is found to have broken the law.
In a statement this afternoon Starmer said: “Those who make the laws must follow them. And I believe that politicians who undermine that principle, undermine trust in politics undermine our democracy and undermine Britain.
“I'm absolutely clear that no laws were broken. They were followed at all times.
“I simply had something to eat while working late in the evening, as any politician would do days before an election.
“But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice I would of course do the right thing and step down.”
He added: “This matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules are applied.
“They deserve politicians who hold themselves to the highest standards and they deserve politicians who put the country first, rather than themselves.”
His deputy Angela Rayner confirmed she would also resign if she was fined, saying in a statement: "I’ve always been clear that I was at the event in Durham working in my capacity as deputy leader and that no rules were broken.
"Eating during a long day’s work was not against the rules. We have a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the rules, lied about it and then been fined.
"If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down."
The Labour leader was understood to be in talks with his team this morning about whether to announce the pledge, as he looked to find a fresh political position after Friday’s announcement by Durham Police they were looking again at the incident.
Starmer has consistently said no rules were broken as the food was consumed in the office of Mary Foy, the City of Durham MP, between work events ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.
However fresh questions have been asked after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was pre-scheduled, with no further work apparently planned after dinner.
Separately a source who was present at the event told The Sunday Times that Starmer did not return to work after eating, and also accused some in attendance of being drunk and only there to socialise, which would be in breach of the coronavirus regulations at the time.
In his statement today Starmer said we all found the rules “frustrating at times”, describing how he and his wife were unable to provide his father in law “the support we wanted to” when his mother in law died at the start of the pandemic.
“I had to isolate six times during Covid, pulling me away from my work, and the things that I love,” he said in an address at Labour’s headquarters in Westminster.
"But I did it because we followed the rules. The idea that I would then casually break those rules is wrong, and frankly I don't believe those accusingly believe it themselves.
“They are just trying to feed cynicism, to get the public to believe all politicians are the same.”
On Monday morning universities minister Michelle Donelan described Starmer's “relentless focus” on calling for the Prime Minister to resign over lockdown breaches as smacking of “sheer hypocrisy”.
Starmer pulled out of a scheduled speech at the Institute for Government this morning, but allies insisted he was not "ducking scrutiny" by cancelling the event. Labour did not offer an explanation beyond saying "plans change”.
A new YouGov poll out today found that 46% of people believe Starmer should resign if he is fined by police.
That includes 48% of those who voted Labour at the last election, which is higher than those who voted Tory, at 40%.
With the police investigation continuing, 54% responded to the survey that the Labour leader either probably or definitely broke the rules.
At the time of the gathering in Durham the Covid-19 rules meant while non-essential retail and outdoor venues, including pub gardens, were open, a ban on indoor mixing between households remained in place.
In response to Starmer’s statement the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said: "This is the right decision by Keir Starmer and in contrast to Boris Johnson, shows integrity, decency and respect to the bereaved."
Their spokesperson Hannah Brady said: "This is also why Conservative MPs should do the decent thing and remove Boris Johnson from power immediately.
"It will be outrageous if Boris Johnson is allowed to continue clinging to his office, despite breaking his own rules on an industrial scale and then insulting bereaved families by lying to them about it, whilst Keir Starmer resigns for a single event."
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