What is the ‘Beergate’ scandal? Police find Keir Starmer did not break Covid rules

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the Tories ‘out of touch’ (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the Tories ‘out of touch’ (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Durham Police’s investigation found that Sir Keir Starmer did not break Covid regulations when he drank beer indoors with colleagues in April last year.

Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner had promised to resign if they were fined in relation to the gathering.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Sir Keir said: “I’ve always said no rules were broken when I was in Durham.

“For me, this was always a matter of principle. Honesty and integrity matter. You will always get that from me.”

In the lead-up to the local elections, some Tory-supporting newspapers reported about Starmer’s “Beergate scandal”.

The Telegraph wrote that a former chief constable said that police should re-investigate the allegations that the Labour Leader broke lockdown rules.

In a statement, Durham Police said it had received “significant new information” in recent days and reviewed its position. “We can confirm that an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations relating to this gathering is now being conducted,” they said.

But what is “beergate” and how does it compare to Downing Street’s “Partygate” scandal?

What is Beergate?

Labour leader Keir Starmer was accused of breaking lockdown rules in April 2021, when he was spotted drinking beer indoors with Labour staff in Durham.

The event happened while England was under stage 2 Covid rules, which meant that people couldn’t socialise outside of their household or bubble.

However, Starmer maintained that it was a work event and that they followed all the rules.

Sir Keir also had to admit that his office had made a “genuine mistake” by wrongly claiming his deputy Angela Rayner was not there on the night.

The Sun reported that Met Police bodyguards, who had accompanied Sir Keir to Durham, saw the Labour leader and aides eating a £200 order of curry.

According to the newspaper, witnesses suggest dozens of MPs and aides gathered at Durham Miners’ Hall, with the police car still there late into the evening.

How does it compare to Partygate?

Partygate involves 17 parties that took place at Downing Street during lockdown, with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending a number of them.

The events span from May 15, 2020, to April 16, 2021.

One event–which was investigated by police–took place on May 20, 2020.

Around 100 people were invited to “socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden,” and the BBC reported that witnesses said Johnson and his wife were among 30 people who attended.

Another event that police investigated is a party that is said to have taken place on December 18, 2020. Then-press secretary Allegra Stratton joked about a “fictional party [that] was a business meeting” in a video obtained by ITV News.

No 10 staff also held two parties on April 16, 2021–the night before Prince Philip’s funeral. At this time, the rules had been eased but socialising indoors with other households was not allowed.