Sir Keir Starmer should ‘stand up, shoulder it’ and refer himself for investigation after video footage emerged of him enjoying a drink with colleagues at the height of last year’s lockdown, Tories have said.
The Labour leader has been accused of ‘brazen hypocrisy’ after he was caught drinking beer with several staff members on April 30 last year, when people were banned from socialising inside with someone from another household under ‘step two’ of the lockdown.
Footage clearly shows Sir Keir holding a bottle while chatting with a woman – believed to be Labour MP Mary Foy – in her constituency office in Durham.
Footage of Sir Keir Starmer 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
At least five people appeared to be in the room, one of whom is eating what appears to be a meal of pasta.
But yesterday, when quizzed about the evidence, his team insisted that Sir Keir had not broken any rules.
They said that it was a work event, despite them castigating No 10 for using the same excuse in defence of Boris Johnson over Partygate.
Asked what the difference was between cheese and wine – which the Prime Minister was pictured enjoying in the garden of No 10 – and beer and pasta dishes, which Mr Starmer appears to have had last April, his team said that the effort to link the two events was ‘false equivalence’.
They added that Mr Starmer had proven that he was committed to following Covid guidance as he had isolated at least half a dozen times.
Their defence comes as Mr Starmer previously said that Mr Johnson’s cheese and wine meeting was ‘a stretch’ and called for questions to be answered around the gathering.
Sir Keir should ‘stand up, shoulder it’ and refer himself for investigation, Tories have said. The Labour leader has been accused of ‘brazen hypocrisy’
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.
‘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 No 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.’
Last night, Sir Keir’s team could not answer why he was unable to take part in zoom meetings from home.