The Labour Party won the highest vote share in the nationwide council elections. But that victory has been tainted by the news that Durham Police now plan to investigate Sir Keir Starmer for allegedly breaching lockdown rules in April of last year.
In recent months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been in the dock over #Partygate. The Metropolitan Police has led an ongoing probe into the string of mid-lockdown parties in Downing Street. This investigation has already led to Johnson being fined and prompted innumerable calls, not least from Starmer, for the Prime Minister to resign for flouting restrictions he had forced on everyone else.
While the #Partygate saga is by no means over, Johnson will be breathing a sigh of relief—perhaps even chortling—now that the attention has shifted to a new scandal involving his opposite number. Sir Keir Starmer now finds himself engulfed in a row that is already being called #Beergate.
As the Mail reports, Durham Police had initially decided not to investigate Starmer for breaching rules after footage emerged of the Labour leader and his political aides enjoying drinks and a curry in April 2021—a time when the rest of us were prohibited from mixing indoors for non-essential reasons. The incident would have passed without notice had it not been for the instincts of two laser-eyed students, armed with a smartphone, who filmed the entire thing. It took place in the office of Mary Foy, the Labour MP for the City of Durham, whom Starmer was visiting ahead of last year’s local elections.
But when the news first emerged, Durham Constabulary judged that no offence had been established and that no further action should be taken. Thanks to the emergence of new information, such as the fact that 30 people attended the gathering in Durham to share £200 worth of food, the police have revised this verdict and given notice to the public that an investigation is underway. The only grievance among Conservatives is that this was not announced until after the local elections held on May 4th, given the impact that #Partygate likely had on the poor Tory performance.
The student eyewitnesses have already cast doubt on Starmer’s official claim that he was attending a work meeting. One of these two students, who chose to remain anonymous, further addressed the foot-dragging behaviour of Durham police: “There is speculation that Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Hall, was present at the party, and the Metropolitan Police were definitely present accompanying Starmer. None of this is a good look, as everyone there should have known better. Durham Police are notoriously corrupt and have very obviously waited until after the local elections to announce the investigation.” In fact, the police have even admitted that their decision to delay the announcement was intentional.
The Labour Party maintains that no rules were broken, but that is now a matter for the investigators. Sir Keir Starmer will now begin to feel some of the pressure that he has been gleefully applying to the prime minister over the last few months.