Keir Starmer’s leadership was in crisis last night after police launched an investigation into ‘Beergate’.
Durham Constabulary said they were opening a fresh inquiry into the notorious event when Sir Keir was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with party activists during lockdown.
The move is a humiliation for the Labour leader, who called on Boris Johnson to resign in January after police launched an inquiry into claims of lockdown-busting events in No 10.
Sir Keir was pictured with a bottle of beer with activists during lockdown on April 30, 2021
In a tweet, he said: ‘Honesty and decency matter. He needs to do the decent thing and resign.’
Sir Keir Starmer, who has repeatedly called for Boris Johnson to resign over Partygate and the Met’s investigation of Downing Street parties, has been left eating his words after Durham police announced it would reinvestigate a bash attended by the Labour leader.
On January 12, Sir Keir told the Commons: ‘[Mr Johnson] has finally been forced to admit what everyone knew – that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?’
The day the Metropolitan Police announced it had opened an investigation into Partygate on January 25, Sir Keir was joined in his chorus of condemnation by deputy Angela Rayner, who said: ‘Boris Johnson is a national distraction. Conservative MPs should stop propping him up and he should finally do the decent thing and resign.’
The Labour leader repeated this call the following day, telling the Commons: ‘The ministerial code says that: “Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation”. Does the Prime Minister believe that applies to him? I think the Prime Minister said yes. Therefore, if he misled Parliament, he must resign.’
City of Durham Labour MP Mary Foy, in whose constituency office the bash in question was held, tweeted on April 19: ‘Boris Johnson says he has made changes in Downing Street, so we should move on from Partygate. I won’t move on ... until the lawbreaking charlatan resigns. Every day he remains in office is a national disgrace.’
Last night critics were asking whether Sir Keir and Mrs Rayner, both now the subject of a police investigation, would abide by their own high standards.
Sir Keir ignored questions yesterday about whether he would adhere to his own standards and quit – insisting only that he had not broken the rules.
But a Cabinet source said Sir Keir had been ‘hoist by his own petard’, adding: ‘Who would have guessed that the holier-than-thou saint would turn out to be a total hypocrite?’
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail: ‘For three months, he attempted to divert the Government’s attention away from important and pressing issues such as the cost of living and the war in Ukraine by continuously calling for the PM to resign for nothing more than being investigated.
‘Do his inappropriate and repeatedly shrill-voiced standards apply to himself as well?’
One Labour backbencher branded Sir Kier’s actions in Durham ‘indefensible’ – telling PoliticsJoe they would refuse media interviews to avoid having to defend the party’s embattled leader.
A political adviser to Sir Keir added: ‘It’s a relief Durham police aren’t handing out retrospective fines. Because we would probably get one.’
Yesterday’s police intervention follows a string of revelations by the Mail about what really happened when Sir Keir gathered with MPs and officials in Durham Miners Hall on the night of April 30 last year.
Durham Constabulary said last night the force had received ‘significant new information’.
The body blow for the Labour leader came as:Sir Keir’s dream of an electoral breakthrough fell flat as Labour failed to make significant gains in the crucial Red Wall councils Mr Johnson pledged a new focus on the cost of living after the Tories lost almost 400 seats on a 'tough' night for the Government The Lib Dems struck fear into southern Tories by claiming a string of victories Durham police faced questions about why they delayed their bombshell announcement until after the elections Disgraced former Labour mayor Lutfur Rahman was re-elected as mayor of Tower Hamlets after a five-year elections ban over vote-rigging Labour tightened its grip on the capital, seizing flagship Tory councils in Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet
Last week this newspaper revealed that, despite denials stretching back three months, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was also present at the drinks in the Miners Hall.
Durham Constabulary (HQ pictured) finally agreed to reopen its 'Beergate' probe yesterday
Mrs Rayner, who also called for the PM to quit following the launch of the Partygate probe, is now likely to face questions from the police and face pressure to resign. The police initially rejected calls to investigate after reviewing a 43-second video filmed by a passer-by.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to twist the knife last night as he described the police investigation into Sir Keir Starmer as a ‘very serious development’.
Mr Corbyn, who has been denied the Labour whip after being suspended in 2020, refused to say if Sir Keir should resign.
He told LBC: ‘I don’t want to comment on what the outcome of (the investigation) would be, but obviously, it’s serious.’
But in a statement yesterday, the force said: ‘Following the receipt of significant new information over recent days, Durham Constabulary... can confirm that an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations relating to this gathering is now being conducted.’
Labour said Sir Keir, Mrs Rayner and others present would co-operate with detectives. In a brief statement to reporters, a shell-shocked Sir Keir said: ‘I understand the police need to do their job, we need to let them get on with that but I’m confident there was no breach of the rules.’
Privately, Labour insiders acknowledged that Sir Keir might have to resign if he is fined, having repeatedly called for the PM and Rishi Sunak to quit when they were fined £50 over a brief so-called ‘birthday party’ in the Cabinet room.
One Labour MP said the decision by Sir Keir and