Timeline of partygate allegations as Keir Starmer probed over beergate

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is to be investigated by police amid allegations that he broke lockdown rules in 2021 (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is to be investigated by police amid allegations that he broke lockdown rules in 2021 (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

The news that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is to be investigated over an alleged lockdown breach is the latest police probe into possible pandemic rule-breaking in politics.

It follows investigations which resulted in Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak being handed fixed penalty notices, having fallen foul of Covid-19 restrictions.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the long-running saga, which includes events on eight dates being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray published her interim report into alleged rule-breaking at the top of Government (Gov.uk/PA) (PA Media)
Senior civil servant Sue Gray published her interim report into alleged rule-breaking at the top of Government (Gov.uk/PA) (PA Media)

– May 20 2020: Bring Your Own Booze party

A leaked email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, showed No 10 staff were invited to “bring your own booze” to an event in the Downing Street garden.

Mr Johnson has admitted he was there for 25 minutes but said he thought it was a “work event” to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Earlier that month initial lockdown rules in England had been relaxed, permitting people to leave home for outdoor recreation.

Rules around socialising were also changed, with people allowed to meet one person from outside their household, provided the encounter was socially distanced and took place outside.

However, outdoor gatherings with multiple people from other households were not allowed at the time.

– June 18 2020: Cabinet Office leaving do

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

The event had not previously been disclosed but the Telegraph said the official in question was former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.

The newspaper said it understood about 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Daniel Leal/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Daniel Leal/PA) (PA Wire)

At that time people were only allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, as long as they remained two metres apart.

But the Government guidance said: “If you are in someone else’s garden, you must not go inside to help the host carry the food out or to help with the washing up.”

– June 19 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday

Downing Street has admitted staff “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for the Prime Minister organised by his now wife Carrie.

The PA news agency was told that Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.

However, No 10 has denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.

The law at the time prohibited two or more people from different households being indoors at the same time.

It was interpreted that someone from a different household would be breaking the law if they went indoors just to use the toilet, or walk through the house, if it was not empty.

– November 13 2020: Downing Street flat do

Carrie Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and her husband live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim “total nonsense”.

But reports have since suggested that Mr Johnson was seen heading up to the flat on the night in question, with the Mail On Sunday stating that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, were heard coming from the residence.

There is said to have been a party in the PM’s official residence the night Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to Boris Johnson, left No 10 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
There is said to have been a party in the PM’s official residence the night Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to Boris Johnson, left No 10 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Cummings, former de facto chief-of-staff at No 10, has alleged there are photographs of parties held at the flat during lockdown and said he has spoken to people who heard music coming from the Johnsons’ accommodation on the night he left Downing Street.

A second national lockdown for England began on November 5.

People were ordered to stay at home during this period and only leave under a limited number of exceptions, not including gatherings.

Different households were banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, unless in a support bubble.

– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings.

At the time organisers of large gatherings of more than 30 people could have been fined £10,000.

– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case removed himself from the inquiry into Whitehall parties – to be replaced by Ms Gray – after reports emerged of a gathering in the Cabinet Office.

It was reported that the do had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was noted in digital calendars as “Christmas party!” and included an online quiz.

The Cabinet Office said Mr Case played no part in the event “but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own”.

Earlier that month, England introduced a tier system, with the majority of the country, including London, in Tier 2, where the restrictions meant a ban on households mixing indoors, and pubs and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

However, days before the event, London moved into Tier 3, meaning the hospitality sector had to close except for takeaways, and groups of six could only meet in outdoor public spaces.

– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head

The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce, Kate Josephs, said she was “truly sorry” over leaving drinks held in the Cabinet Office.

– December 17 2020: No 10 leaving do

A leaving do was held for a departing Downing Street official.

The Telegraph reported that the staff member in question was Captain Steve Higham, then one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries, who advised on defence and national security issues.

The Mirror, which first reported the event before the police investigation began, said the Prime Minister was only there “for a few minutes”.

Capt Higham became Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in July 2021.

– December 18 2020: Downing Street Christmas party

Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, resigned after a video emerged of her joking about a “fictional party” at a mock press conference.

A day before the party Home Secretary Priti Patel had accused Tory MP Tobias Ellwood of breaching coronavirus rules by attending a Christmas dinner for 27 guests.

– January 14 2021: More Downing Street leaving drinks

A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.

Reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to the Telegraph.

The other official’s identity is so far unknown.

National restrictions were reintroduced for a third time on January 6.

The rules during the third lockdown were more like those in the first lockdown, meaning people were once again told to stay at home.

However, people could still form support bubbles but a gathering, similar to the one on January 14, was not allowed.

Police could issue fines starting at £200 in England for those breaking the rules.

– April 16 2021: Two leaving dos on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The night before the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband of more than 70 years, in compliance with Covid rules at the time, two leaving dos were reportedly held in No 10.

The Queen Elizabeth at the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
The Queen Elizabeth at the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after reported details emerged of boozy drinks parties, including one for outgoing communications director James Slack.

Socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed and meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.

– December 15 2020: Online Christmas quiz in No 10

Police initially said they did not intend to investigate the quiz, during which the Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens.

However, they later said they would review the decision after a photograph emerged of Mr Johnson alongside an open bottle of sparkling wine.

– April 12 2022

A No 10 spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak would be issued with fines for breaches of Covid-19 regulations following allegations of lockdown parties in Downing Street and Whitehall.

The Prime Minister, his wife and the Chancellor all apologised and confirmed they had paid fines imposed over a party held on June 19 2020 to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday.

The Metropolitan Police announced that, to date, they had made more than 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

– May 2022

There was a renewed focus from some quarters of the media and politics on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer amid allegations that he broke lockdown rules in 2021 – dubbed “beergate” by some.

Durham Constabulary previously said they did not believe an offence had been established.

– May 6 2022

Durham Constabulary said the Labour leader is to be investigated by police over the allegations “following the receipt of significant new information over recent days”.

Sir Keir had come under pressure since footage emerged of him drinking a beer with reportedly up to 30 colleagues at a constituency office in Durham in April 2021 during campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election.

He has repeatedly denied breaching the rules.

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