MPs demand evidence Starmer did not break Covid rules over 'beergate'

MPs demand evidence Starmer did not break Covid rules over 'beergate'

05/01/2022

Show us the proof, Sir Keir: MPs demand evidence that Labour leader did not break Covid rules over ‘beergate’ amid claims of big curry delivery and 10pm drinks… as he still insists it was a ‘break’ during work

  • Labour leader Keir Starmer has been told to back up his claims over Beergate 
  • He insists he did not break rules when caught on camera swigging beer last year
  • Tory MPs said it stretched credulity to suggest Sir Keir carried on working so late

Keir Starmer was told tonight to provide evidence to back up his claims over Beergate. 

The Labour leader says he did not break Covid rules when he was caught on camera swigging beer with colleagues last year. 

He insists he was working and he and his team had only stopped for a ‘break’ and food before resuming their duties at Durham Miners Hall. 

But Tory MPs said it stretched credulity to suggest Sir Keir had carried on working so late when the footage of him drinking beer had been shot at 10.04pm on a Friday night. 

Labour refused to provide any evidence that he really went back to work, saying only that it had nothing to add on the matter. 

In a further twist, a delivery driver for an Indian restaurant yesterday claimed that he had dropped off ‘quite a big order’ at the hall of ‘about four bags’ of curry, rice and naan bread. 

He also estimated there were ‘probably about 30 or so’ people there. 

But after the Mail made further enquires with the restaurant, he changed his story to say he had no recollection of making the delivery on April 30. 

Sir Keir Starmer insists he did not break Covid rules when he was caught on camera swigging beer with colleagues last year

Scott Benton, Tory MP for Blackpool South, said: ‘Labour must provide proof that Keir returned to work after his beers at 10pm if they expect people to believe this claim. Why would they not provide evidence for this claim if it is true?’ 

Brendan Clarke-Smith, Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, said: ‘Sir Keir must provide evidence to back up this claim if it is to be believed. Labour already has admitted they lied about Angela Rayner’s presence. Is there anything else they haven’t told us?’ 

Michael Fabricant, who represents Lichfield for the Conservatives, said: ‘Having first denied that Angela Rayner was present then having to admit that she was, Keir Starmer needs even more to provide some evidence that he did indeed go back to work. It is, after all, pretty unbelievable.’ 

Sir Keir was today forced to admit Labour had not told the truth over the Durham gathering. 

The party had initially claimed that Mrs Rayner, the deputy leader, had not been present, but last week it confirmed she was after being presented with video evidence by the Daily Mail. 

Appearing on Sky News yesterday, Sir Keir said: ‘It is a genuine mistake and I take responsibility for it.’ 

The Tories yesterday stepped up their calls for Durham Constabulary to investigate whether Sir Keir was in breach of Covid regulations. 

MP Mary Foy at The Capitol Indian Restaurant in Durham

In February the force decided not to launch a formal probe after reviewing a video of the event and deciding it did not believe an offence had been ‘established’. 

Richard Holden, the Tory MP for North West Durham, wrote to the force a week ago asking them to reconsider in light of Scotland Yard’s decision to fine the Prime Minister over a breach in Downing Street. 

Last night he sent a further letter asking officers to look into Sir Keir’s ‘implausible’ account. 

Mr Holden wrote: ‘Keir Starmer has again repeated his claim that he returned to work after being pictured drinking beer inside after 10pm on the evening in question. 

‘As many observers – including residents of County Durham – now know, this seems implausible.’ He added that it ‘simply cannot be the case that Keir Starmer returned to work’, or that the drink was ‘reasonably necessary for work purposes’. 

Mr Holden also demanded that police interview two students who filmed the video of Sir Keir swigging beer. The pair told the Mail on Sunday yesterday that Sir Keir, local Labour MP Mary Foy and a mystery woman, who may have been Mrs Rayner, were gathered in a narrow kitchen next to Mrs Foy’s office. 

The witnesses, who are university students, said the trio and other Labour officials, who were standing in a narrow corridor outside, appeared to be socialising. 

Labour dismissed an election ‘booze row’ after Sir Keir Starmer enjoyed a beer after a day on the campaign trail in April 2021

‘I have never seen a work meeting with people sitting on tables, drinking San Miguel and standing around eating off plates,’ one said. 

‘They weren’t having a meeting. There is a clear difference between a meeting and what was happening there, which was entirely social.’ 

Sir Keir drank his now-infamous beer with Labour comrades when England was only slowly emerging from lockdown and strict laws remained against indoor socialising. 

He was in the North East to campaign for candidates ahead of a crucial ‘Red Wall’ by-election as well as council and crime tsar polls. 

Under the ‘Step 2’ restrictions in place between April 12 and May 17, the Government insisted: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.’ 

Outdoor groups were limited to just six people. When the photo emerged in January, Sir Keir said: ‘I was in a constituency office just days before the election. We were very busy, we were working in the office and we stopped for something to eat. And then we carried on working. That is the long and the short of it. 

‘No party, no breach of the rules and absolutely no comparison with the Prime Minister… We’d stopped to eat a takeaway whilst we were working in the office and then we carried on. Just to put it in context this was about a few days before the May elections. 

Labour tonight declined to provide proof the party leader continued working. A spokesman said: ‘No rules were broken.’

Mystery over the disappearing delivery of ‘four bags of curry’

By James Tozer and Connor Stringer

More questions were raised over Beergate tonight after a takeaway driver claimed to have delivered ‘quite a big order’ of four bags of curries, rice and naans to the ‘work meeting’. 

The driver estimated there were ‘probably about 30 or so people’ inside – but he later U-turned on his story. Sir Keir Starmer insisted ‘no rules were broken’ as he accused the Tories of ‘trying to throw mud around’ ahead of Thursday’s local elections. 

The Daily Mail spoke to a staff member at the award-winning The Capital Indian restaurant not far from Durham Miners Hall – where Sir Keir was filmed drinking beer – who initially said he brought ‘about four bags’ of food. 

During the first national lockdown The Capital was hailed by local Labour MP Mary Foy – who was among those at the 10pm gathering in her constituency office – for supplying meals to NHS staff.

However, after the Mail continued to make enquiries last night, the delivery driver changed his story, claiming he had never even been to the Miners Hall. 

The Labour leader was staying at Durham’s Radisson Blu hotel where food was served outside on its terrace until 9pm. 

But Sir Keir had previously said the hotel he was staying in wasn’t serving food. In addition to Sir Keir and Miss Foy, the 43-second footage of the gathering shows a mystery blonde-haired woman, and two young male Labour aides eating what appear to be naan bread from plates. 

A sixth person – a man – can briefly be seen walking along a corridor at the far end of the small kitchen in which they were meeting. 

In May 2020, Mrs Foy posed for photographs with head chef Syed Islam and other staff at The Capital as they displayed a banner highlighting how they had supplied complementary meals for ‘NHS heroes’ treating Covid patients at University Hospital North Durham.

Redhills, the home of the Durham Miners Association in Durham, County Durham

In a glowing endorsement posted on her website, she said: ‘This is another heart-warming example of how the communities and businesses in my brilliant constituency look out for one another. 

‘I hope all the staff who received one of Syed’s incredible meals enjoyed them. 

‘I was lucky enough to sample one and I can confirm that his status as an award-winning chef is very much deserved. Well done to Team Capital! 

Asked at 11am yesterday whether the restaurant had delivered the food seen being consumed in the video, the delivery driver recalled it being ‘quite a big order’ of curries, rice and naan bread. ‘It was about four bags of stuff,’ he said. 

‘There were a few people. 

Probably about 30 or so.’ Questioned as to whether it looked like a party, he said it had not, adding that the people present seemed ‘quite spread out’. 

However after saying he needed to speak to a manager, his account later changed. At 5pm he insisted he had been mistaken in his earlier comments and that other drivers had been carrying out deliveries at that time. 

Shown a photograph of the Miners Hall, he insisted: ‘I have never been there before.’ Interviewed about the gathering on LBC radio in January, Sir Keir said: ‘No restaurants were open, no pubs were open. 

The hotel we were staying in had no food, they didn’t run food. ‘So if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening.’

 Durham Police are facing mounting calls to launch a new probe into the event, having announced in February that no rules had been broken. 

The students who filmed the video clip said yesterday they were willing to provide a full statement to officers. The Labour Party was approached for comment.

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