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Labour Party leader Keir Starmer arrives to meet with winning Labour Councillors at StoneX Stadium on May 6, 2022 in Barnet, England. (Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)
The probe into Keir Starmer’s beer-drinking is a “non-story” and a “smear”, a Labour MP said today.
Jo Stevens said Labour were “confident” no Covid rules had been broken when Starmer was pictured with a beer while campaigning in Durham last year.
However, local police announced yesterday that they were launching a fresh investigation into whether he broke lockdown rules.
Askedif Starmer should resign if he is found to have broken the law, Stevens told Times Radio: “Well, I think if we get to that situation, which I think is extremely unlikely on the basis that Durham police have already investigated this complaint and found that no rules have been broken, I’m sure Keir will make a statement at that point, but I think that this is a non story, a kind of smear that’s been going on to time with the local elections to try and hold up a Tory party that is so badly damaged by the behaviour of the prime minister.”
The shadow Welsh secretary went on to insist that “no breach” of the rules occurred and added: “We’re confident of that.”
Durham Police announced they would launch an investigation into the so-called beergate row following “significant new information”.
The Labour leader is under pressure over footage of him drinking a beer and having a curry with colleagues in April 2021 while campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election.
At the time of the 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.
Boris Johnson has already been issued a fine by police for breaking his own lockdown laws.
But Durham police have been asked by Conservative MP Richard Holden to reconsider their initial assessment that no offence was committed by Starmer.
Starmer has said no rules were broken as it was just a short break for a meal during work.
In a statement, the force 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.”
Starmer 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 no rules were broken.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.