Beergate: Durham Police to investigate Sir Keir Starmer over allegation he broke lockdown rules

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Sir Keir Starmer has insisted there was "no party" and he is "confident no rules were broken" after police said they would investigate claims he broke lockdown rules while drinking with colleagues.

Speaking to reporters after Labour made gains in the local elections, the leader of the opposition said: "As I've explained a number of times, we were working in the office, we stopped for something to eat - no party, no breach of the rules.

"The police obviously have got their job to do, we should let them get on with it.

"But I'm confident that no rules were broken.

"Meanwhile, we've had a really good set of results today."

The Labour leader has come under pressure since footage emerged of him drinking a beer and having curry with colleagues in Durham during campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election in April 2021.

At the time, 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.

Durham Constabulary said: "Earlier this year, Durham Constabulary carried out an assessment as to whether Covid-19 regulations had been breached at a gathering in Durham City on April 30 2021.

"At that time, it was concluded that no offence had been established and therefore no further action would be taken.

"Following the receipt of significant new information over recent days, Durham Constabulary has reviewed that position and now, following the conclusion of the pre-election period, we can confirm that an investigation into potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations relating to this gathering is now being conducted."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "We're obviously happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken."

The revelation will dent the Labour Party's joy at winning three key Conservative councils in London in the local elections, just hours earlier.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Sir Keir being investigated was "only a matter of time".

"The law should be applied fairly and consistently across the country," he added.

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak - and other unnamed staff - were fined in March for breaking lockdown rules in Downing Street and Whitehall following a Met Police investigation into "partygate".

Sir Keir repeatedly called on Mr Johnson to resign after he was fined and accused him of knowingly misleading the House of Commons - something the PM has denied.

The Labour leader accused Conservative MPs on Monday of "mudslinging" over the allegations after coming under pressure from Tories over the event.

He said he and his colleagues were working in the Durham constituency office of local MP Mary Foy and paused for some food, adding that "no rules were broken".

Last week, the Labour Party confirmed its deputy leader Angela Rayner was also in attendance, having previously told journalists she was not present at the gathering last April when coronavirus restrictions were in force.

But a party source said it was a "mistake made in good faith" and Sir Keir has insisted it "makes absolutely no difference" as no rules had been broken.

Sir Keir said earlier this week: "There was no party, no breach of the rules.

"This is a few days from the election, I know what's going on here - Tories are desperately trying to talk about anything other than the cost of living, chucking as much mud as possible.

"If they spent as much energy and as much focus on people's bills and the tax that they are whacking people for then millions of people would be grateful for that.

"So I think this is classic two or three days before an election mudslinging from the Tories. But I have got nothing to add."

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