Labour rejects claims Keir Starmer a hypocrite after lockdown drinking picture resurfaces

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer responds to questions from journalists after delivering a statement on a proposed ban on second jobs for MPs on November 16, 2021 in London, England. Starmer and his party have been hammering the government over its recent attempt to reform Parliament's Committee on Standards, following a committee report that found Conservative MP Owen Paterson in breach of lobbying rules. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Labour has dismissed claims that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules during local election campaigning. (Getty Images)

Labour has dismissed criticism of Sir Keir Starmer over a photograph taken last year which appears to show him drinking alcohol indoors with colleagues during a work meeting last May.

The photo was taken outside the window of a constituency office in Durham in the days leading up to the Hartlepool by-election last year.

At that time, the restrictions allowed people to gather indoors for work purposes but not for social gatherings.

The timing of the re-emergence of the photo comes as pressure on Boris Johnson to resign intensifies following reports of another party in Number 10 being held while the country was under COVID restrictions.

On Thursday it was reported two more parties - including a leaving-do for the prime minister's former head of communications - were held on the day before the Queen buried Prince Phillip and was forced to sit alone in a church on 17 April.

Amid growing public fury and calls for the prime minister to resign, the Telegraph reported on Thursday night senior Conservative sources branding Starmer a "complete hypocrite" over the photograph.

Read more: Boris Johnson’s former adviser apologises for No10 party night before Prince Philip’s funeral

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10 June 1921, in Greece. He served in the British Royal Navy and fought in WWII. He married the then Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 and was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King VI. He served as Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II until his death on April 9 2021, months short of his 100th birthday. His funeral takes place today at Windsor Castle with only 30 guests invited due to Coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen sitting alone during Prince Philip's funeral became a symbol of the loneliness of lockdown. (Getty)

“Sir Keir has spent the past two months criticising people for doing the exact same thing he's been doing himself,” they said. “He is an absolute hypocrite.”

Labour has dismissed the re-emergence of the photo, which was first reported last summer, suggesting it was an attempt to distract from the pressure facing the prime minister.

Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney general for England and Wales, insisted no rules were broken.

"When it came out eight months ago, we didn't cover it up - we explained straight away because there's no problem with it at all," she told TALKRadio.

She added: "He had a Zoom meeting with a large number of people and the event went on and he had something to eat, and a bottle of beer, and someone took his photograph through the window.

"That's it and, frankly, is that an equivalent to going into a party in the Downing Street garden?"

When approached by Yahoo News UK, Labour pointed to a statement they made when the story emerged last year.

"Keir was in the workplace, meeting a local MP in her constituency office and participating in an online Labour Party event," a spokesperson said.

"They paused for dinner as the meeting was during the evening. No rules were broken."

Watch: Emily Thornberry defends Sir Keir Starmer beer picture

Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace for the gatherings held the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Two events reportedly took place at Downing Street, with the Prime Minister’s former director of communications James Slack apologising for the “anger and hurt” one of the events – a leaving-do held for him – had caused.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister confirmed No 10 has said sorry to the Palace.

The day after the events on April 16 2021, the Queen attended her husband Philip’s funeral wearing a face mask and socially distanced from her family at Windsor Castle, in line with Covid restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Boris Johnson was at his country residence Chequers on April 16 and had not been invited to the events.

Watch: Keir Starmer calls for Prime Minister's resignation over lockdown party