Sir Keir Starmer today insisted there is ‘absolutely no comparison’ between footage of him drinking a beer with Labour staff last year and Covid rule-busting parties in Downing Street.
The Labour leader said he was working when he was pictured holding a bottle and chatting to staff during a visit to a Labour constituency office in Durham on April 30 last year.
Tory figures have accused the Labour leader of ‘brazen hypocrisy’ and called for an investigation after he has repeatedly criticised the PM over the rumbling Number 10 party row.
Sir Keir today said he had not broken any rules and ‘we were working in the office and we stopped for something to eat and then we carried on working’.
He said there was ‘no party, no breach of the rules and absolutely no comparison with the Prime Minister’.
His comments came as he accused Mr Johnson of breaking the law over parties in Number 10.
Sir Keir Starmer today insisted there is ‘absolutely no comparison’ between footage of him drinking a beer with Labour staff last year and Covid rule-busting parties in Downing Street
Footage of Sir Keir shows him holding a bottle while chatting with a woman – believed to be Labour MP Mary Foy – in her constituency office in Durham last April
Tory figures have accused the Labour leader of ‘brazen hypocrisy’ and called for an investigation after he has repeatedly criticised the PM over the rumbling Number 10 party row
Footage which has re-emerged showed Sir Keir holding a bottle while chatting with a woman – believed to be Labour MP Mary Foy – in her constituency office in Durham.
At least five people appeared to be in the room, one of whom is eating what appears to be a meal of pasta.
Sir Keir was asked during an interview on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme today if he had broken Covid rules and he replied: ‘No, I haven’t.’
Asked to explain the footage, 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.’
Told that the nation was subject to step two rules at the time which banned indoor socialising, he said: ‘We were in the office, the constituency office, it was days before the election, we were very busy, we were working, at some point some food turned up, we stopped, we had our food and then we carried on working.
‘That is not a breach of the rules, it is not a party and it is no comparison to the Prime Minister.’
He continued: ‘Trying to persuade anybody that stopping to have some food when you are in the office all day working is a breach of the rules is just not going to wash and it shows just how far the Conservatives are sinking that they are trying to pretend there is some sort of comparison between this and the industrial scale partying that the Prime Minister has been up to.’
Sir Keir said that at the time it was ‘perfectly lawful to meet for work which is what we were doing’.
Tory figures have sought to compare the footage of Sir Keir with the photograph of the ‘cheese and wine’ gathering in Number 10 on May 15, 2020, which Downing Street has insisted was a work event.
Asked how the two are different, Sir Keir said: ‘People will look at the photos and make their own minds up but I think there is simply no comparison.’
It came as Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of breaking the law over parties in Number 10.
He told the BBC: ‘I think he broke the law. I think he has as good as admitted that he broke the law and after all Downing Street has now apologised to the Queen for some of the parties that have gone on.’
Last night, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has called for Mr Johnson to step down over Partygate, said that Sir Keir should refer himself for an internal investigation over the footage.
‘He should be volunteering himself and his colleagues up for an investigation in the interest of transparency. There’s only one thing that never surprises me about the Labour party, the rank hypocrisy,’ he said.
Yesterday, at a Fabian Society New Year conference, Mr Starmer seemed unphased by the allegations levelled against him and slammed Tory in-fighting over parties said to have been held by Number 10.
He accused Mr Johnson of being ‘unable to lead’, adding that the Prime Minister is ‘too preoccupied defending his rule-breaking’ to focus on issues that matter.
Asked in a question and answer session if he held himself to the same standards as Mr Johnson – and if he would resign if found to have acted in the same way – Mr Starmer said ‘absolutely’.
He added: ‘When we collectively asked the nation to act in a particular way, it was very important that we acted in the same way as the rest of the nation.
‘But we’ve now got to a situation where you’ve got a PM who has lost the moral authority to lead.
‘Just when you need –because we’re not out of the pandemic – a Government that has that moral authority to lead, we’ve lost it with this PM.’
He added: ‘The moral authority matters in relation to enforcing the Covid rules. Sir Keir later told The Mail on Sunday he had followed all guidance and rules.
Last night, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith slammed Sir Keir, saying: ‘There are no excuses, ultimately, for rule breaking. It is very rich of the Labour party and Keir Starmer to try to sweep this aside – it’s not okay. He needs to stand up, shoulder it and say sorry.’
The images of Sir Keir, believed to have been shot through the window of Mrs Foy’s office in Redhills; Durham Miners Hall, show him chatting and holding a bottle of beer.
As well as Sir Keir and Mrs Foy, the video showed two men talking and eating food by the doorway, with a third brushing past. Another woman appeared to be sitting with Sir Keir with her back to the camera.
At the time, England was under ‘step two’ regulations, which stated: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble. You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.’
Regarding work and business, the rules stated: ‘You should work from home if you can.’