Starmer: 'I was working late when beer picture was taken, no rules were broken'

·3-min read

Watch: No party, no breach of the rules in Durham, says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has said it was "clear" no COVID-19 rules were broken when he had a beer with party workers during lockdown as they were "working late".

The gathering – which included an online Labour Party event – took place on 30 April last year in the constituency office of the City of Durham MP Mary Foy.

Durham Police have investigated the incident, held in the run-up to a local election, and determined no rules were broken.

But the Labour leader has faced repeated questioning from the media over the event, amid the Partygate saga which has seen at least 50 fixed penalty notices handed out in connection with parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Boris Johnson was fined for attending a birthday party held in the Cabinet Office during the height of COVID restrictions in June 2020.

Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer talks to business owners about the increased cost of living and the impact it's having on their businesses during a visit to Co-Space in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Picture date: Tuesday April 26, 2022.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has again said no rules were broken when he had a beer in a constituency office. (PA)

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Johnson, his wife Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak were also fined over the event.

Tory MPs have been pressing police to reconsider their decision not to investigate the event following Johnson's fine.

Durham Police confirmed they have received “a number of further communications” to which they will respond, but said they are not currently investigating the matter.

Starmer accused the Conservatives of “mud-slinging” after he was photographed drinking a beer.

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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a campaign visit to Burnley College Sixth Form Centre in Burnley, Lancashire. Picture date: Thursday April 28, 2022.
Boris Johnson was fined for a birthday party held during lockdown. (PA)

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“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.”

Watch: Downing Street is 'most-fined' workplace in wake of partygate says Starmer

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.”

The Labour party was further plunged into controversy last week after Starmer admitted deputy leader Angela Rayner was at the event - despite a Labour source briefing journalists the opposite.

Starmer said he will take responsibility for his office originally stating that deputy leader Angela Rayner was not present.

File photo dated 29/11/2021 of Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner who has accused Tory MPs of using anonymous briefings to spread
Angela Rayner was also at the event, Labour admitted this week. (PA)

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.

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