OPINION - Labour triumphs in London but Starmer faces ‘beergate’ investigation

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

I don’t know how long any news cycle lasts these days, but Keir Starmer may have hoped to bask in the reflective glory of winning Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth councils for more than a few hours.

But news broke this afternoon that Durham Police is to open an investigation into whether the Labour leader broke Covid lockdown regulations when he enjoyed beer and a curry with campaigners last April.

A Labour Party spokesperson said of the matter: “We’re obviously happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken.” This may of course be true, but it sounds eerily similar to initial denials by Number 10.

The investigation is undoubtedly a triumph for Conservative Campaign Headquarters, and places Starmer in a potentially inviable position. Should he be issued with a fine, he would either have to drop all his attacks on Boris Johnson surrounding Partygate, or feel compelled to resign.

Unlike the Prime Minister, Starmer did not write lockdown legislation, but he voted for it and he is of course a former Director of Public Prosecutions.

Talk of resignation is undoubtedly putting the cart well before the horse, but it is still not too late to be buying shares in Wes Streeting, the Tony Blair to Starmer’s John Smith.

As for the elections themselves, the Standard has some outstanding coverage. For big picture stuff, you’ll want to read our full report here. But for the geeks, we go granular. I think the easiest thing to do is to link to our local democracy reporter Joe Talora’s page, from which you can find in-depth results for your area.

If your local council is yet to declare, fear not. Here’s a handy guide to when you can expect results. Tower Hamlets residents will be waiting for some time. Also our City Hall Editor Ross Lydall has a fascinating piece on the ‘dog that didn’t bite’ in the London elections – Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

And do check out today’s Leader Podcast local elections special with Deputy Political Editor David Bond.

Finally, friends don’t let friends extrapolate wildly from local election results with awfully low turnouts and sometimes idiosyncratic issues, but the BBC has run the numbers on national vote share and places Labour on 35%, the Conservatives on 30% and the Lib Dems on 19%.

On the one hand, that’s Labour’s largest lead over the Tories since 2012 and has them on course to be the biggest party at the next general election. On the other, it is the same share of the vote Jeremy Corbyn recorded in 2018 and he is no longer even a Labour MP.

In the comment pages, unofficial Mayor Emeritus of London, Professor Tony Travers, says the local elections results show it’s time for the Tories to have a separate London party.

Now for something completely different – I’ve written about my superpower – spotting early stage baldness in (other) men. No seriously. they let me write this, so please read it... Tl;dr: Any man with an interesting haircut is hiding something.

And finally, Mediterranean temperatures are on the way for London. So on that basis, here are the best things we’ve found to do this weekend. But in case the forecast lets us down once again, the culture team is on hand with the best things to stay in and watch.

Have a lovely weekend.

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