Lisa Nandy has claimed comparisons between Sir Keir Starmer’s Beergate and Boris Johnson’s Partygate are “absurd”.
The Labour frontbencher said Starmer’s beer and curry at a campaign event last year “was in line with every event that I’ve done with any Labour leader” over her 12 years as an MP.
But 11 of those 12 years did not feature a ban on indoor socialising, as there was under coronavirus lockdown restrictions when the Labour leader was filmed with aides in Durham in April last year.
Allies of Starmer insisted the beer and curry was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules. But the Sunday Times has reported a source at the event saying Starmer did not return to work after the takeaway - as he has previously claimed - and that some Labour staff were “tipsy” by the end of the night.
Watch: Starmer avoids questions over his future if fined by police (from Saturday)
Police in Durham are investigating the event as Starmer faces a growing crisis. Tory ministers, including deputy PM Dominic Raab on Sunday, have accused him of hypocrisy after he last month called for Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak to resign when they were fined for attending a lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street in June 2020.
Starmer’s former shadow cabinet colleague Diane Abbott, one of the left-wing MPs he has shunned since becoming leader in 2020, also said he should “consider his position” as leader if fined.
Nandy, the shadow “levelling up” and communities secretary, today sought to play down the significance of Beergate in the face of the Met’s investigation of 12 lockdown gatherings in and around Downing Street.
She told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “Every single visit I’ve been on with Labour leaders… when we’ve stopped to eat, what we’ve done, typically, is run through different questions that have come up over the time the politicians have been out talking to the public.
“You come off stage, you come out of the event, you sit down with your aides, you grab a bite to eat and then you run through some of the things that have come up. You make some decisions, get some other things in motion and then you go off - either back to your hotel to sleep and get ready for the next day, or you go on to the next event.
“I wasn’t at this event but it seems perfectly clear to me it was in line with every event that I’ve done with any Labour leader. And the idea this is the same as being under investigation for 12 gatherings - that included karaoke parties, 'bring your own bottle' parties, celebration parties, leaving drinks, pub quizzes - that the prime minister said never even happened and then it turned out he was at many of… the idea this is the same thing is frankly just absurd [mudslinging] from a government that is out of ideas.”
At the time of the Durham gathering, 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.
Starmer previously said no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.
Deputy PM Raab, appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, accused Starmer of “rank double standards that drive people crazy”.
“He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer and curry event in Durham,” Raab said.
“Keir Starmer looks like, I’m afraid, someone who is engaged in complete hypocrisy, complete double standards and I don’t think he is going to get past that until he gives a proper account of what happened in Durham.”