‘It was already a bad Friday night. The curry was bad and the chat was worse’
Sir Keir Starmer will be investigated by Durham police over “beergate” – the allegation that he broke lockdown rules while drinking with colleagues.
It means Starmer will be the first leader of the opposition to be investigated by the police.
After Boris Johnson’s catastrophic loss at the local elections, Labour should be flying high. But as more details emerge, trouble could be ahead.
Despite record gains in London, one Labour MP told PoliticsJOE they would not be participating in any media interviews for the next few days, in fear of being asked to defend Sir Keir. His actions were “indefensible,” they said.
Meanwhile, as more details emerge from the Durham campaign meeting, a Labour MP scheduled for a panel interview on Friday evening is debating pulling out, in fear of having to defend the Labour leader.
At the time of the alleged infringement in April 2021, 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.
But, days before the Hartlepool by-election, political parties were allowed to gather indoors for the purposes of work.
This means the killer question is whether campaign work was resumed after the group ate a curry together. The meal arrived at around 10pm, and while politicos are known for burning the candle at both ends – Labour have thus far failed to produce tangible evidence by way of e-mails, zoom calls or meeting minutes, that prove the group returned to the drawing board.
Advisors present are reticent to give an answer either way – knowing a police investigation hinges on this very point.
“I just don’t want to get fined for having a curry with Keir Starmer,” one advisor texts. “It was already a bad Friday night. The curry was bad and the chat was worse”.
Labour MPs are particularly frustrated with the “haphazard” release of information from the leader’s office. “If they hadn’t lied about Angela, I’d be more inclined to believe them,” one backbencher says. “If I jump to defend him, I’ll look more stupid as [sic] the Tories”.
The story has been reignited by proof deputy Labour leader had been at the hotel while beergate took place, a huge mistake, as one advisor explains, because photos were tweeted of her presence that very night. All of which have now been deleted.
Responding to news the event would now be investigated by Durham police, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “We’re obviously happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken.”
Last week, the Labour Party was forced to admit Angela Rayner was in fact present at the event where Keir Starmer was pictured drinking beer – days after denying she had been.
After the revelations were printed in the Mail, a Labour party source said the mix-up had been an “honest mistake”.
“It’s a relief Durham police aren’t handing out retrospective fines,” one advisor told PoliticsJOE. “Because we would probably get one”.
Two weeks ago, the Labour MP for the City of Durham was forced to apologise after an altercation with a Tory MP over his calls for police to investigate Sir Keir Starmer’s alleged breach of lockdown rules.
The argument took place in Stranger’s bar on the Parliamentary Estate.
Witnesses say Mary Foy had been furious with Richard Holden, who is the Tory MP for North West Durham that had urged Durham police to reopen its inquiry into the Labour leader’s visit to the city.
The verbal argument was witnessed by two Labour MPs and a few political hacks, including PoliticsJOE. Foy was removed from the bar by friends after the conversation became heated.
Holden said he had accepted a “wholehearted apology from Ms Foy”, who he said had “unprovoked … drunkenly approached, berated and grabbed me”.
Labour said that “Mary and Richard were drinking together in a group, there was a bit of back and forth on politics generally,” and the two were “in touch afterwards and she offered an apology in good faith, which Richard accepted.”
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