Sir Keir Starmer accused of 'rank double standards' by Dominic Raab over ‘beergate’ row

What is 'beergate' and does it matter? Reporter Shehab Khan breaks the controversy down

Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of "rank double standards" by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab after he insisted he did not break coronavirus lockdown laws by having a beer and a curry at a campaign event.

The Labour leader’s claim came as a leaked memo indicated the takeaway in Durham had been planned as part of his itinerary for a day of campaigning in April 2021 and, no further work was scheduled after the dinner.

Allies of Sir Keir insisted that the curry was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules despite the ban on indoor socialising.

At the time of the Durham 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.

Police in Durham are looking into the event and Tory ministers lined up to accuse Sir Keir of hypocrisy after the Labour leader called for Boris Johnson to quit when he faced a Scotland Yard probe into parties held at No 10 during lockdown restrictions.

"It shows the rank double standards of Keir Starmer and the Labour Party," Mr Raab told ITV News on Sunday.

"I think he needs to account for the discrepancies in what he's said. I think he's been economical with the truth at best about what happened up in Durham."

Sir Keir Starmer has been "economical with the truth" about 'beergate', Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told ITV News.

However, Mr Raab did not go so far as to call for Sir Keir to resign if he is fined by police.

Both Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak received fines after attending a gathering on the prime minister's birthday, but neither have stood down.

Instead, the deputy prime minister said his party would remain focussed on the economy and ongoing cost-of-living crisis rather than engaging with the beer saga.

"If Keir Starmer's going to be talking about his curry menu and what he ate when for the next week, we're not going to be engaged in that."

For expert analysis and insight on the biggest stories listen to our podcast to find out What You Need To Know

Sir Keir previously said no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.

Labour has also indicated that as Sir Keir was working the meal did not constitute a social event.

The leaked memo published by the Mail on Sunday showed that the dinner in Durham had been listed on the schedule for Sir Keir’s day in April 2021 during the local election and Hartlepool by-election campaigns.

The document states that there would be a “dinner in Miners Hall” with City of Durham MP Mary Foy from 8.40pm to 10pm – and a note indicates a member of staff in Sir Keir’s office was to arrange the takeaway curry from the Spice Lounge.

The only business listed after the dinner is for Sir Keir to walk back to his hotel – he has previously claimed he “paused for food” and continued working after the meal, saying “the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd."

Separately, a source who was present told the Sunday Times: “It has been claimed that Starmer worked during the curry and then after the curry. None of those two things happened. He did not go back to work to the best of my knowledge.”

The source said some of those present at the event with Sir Keir and deputy leader Angela Rayner were not working at all, and “were just there for a jolly”.

A spokesperson for the Leader of the Opposition’s office said: “Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.”

Timings for events frequently slip during a campaign and on the day of the curry the takeaway was late, a source said.

Sir Keir told reporters on Saturday: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.

“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

He said he would not resign and would lead Labour into the next general election.

Shadow secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Lisa Nandy said there had been an “absolutely desperate attempt to sling mud", at Sir Keir.

“He went on a work visit, he stopped to eat at various times during the day as was factored into the work visit and then he finished the work visit and he went back to his hotel," she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

Lisa Nandy has defended Sir Keir, saying she was 'confident that he hasn’t broken the law.' Credit: PA

She added: "It is frankly absurd of the Tories to claim that this in any way equates to a prime minister who was under investigation by the police for 12 separate gatherings which included karaoke parties, bring your own bottle parties, pub quizzes, suitcases full of wine being smuggled through the back door.

“The prime minister lied about that, he denied that they happened, he denied that he was there, he came clean and he laughed about it.

"The idea that this is the same sort of thing is just a sign of a government that’s tired, is desperate and is completely out of ideas that spends more time slinging mud at the Labour Party than working out how they’re going to deal with pensioners who are now struggling so much to heat their homes that they’re having to get on buses in order to avoid the cold," she continued.

Asked if it was found Sir Keir Starmer broke the law, should he resign, she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Look, I’m not going to get into that, because I’m absolutely confident that he hasn’t broken the law.”In January, Sir Keir said the prime minister “needs to do the decent thing and resign” after he became embroiled in lockdown breach allegations.

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Mr Sunak are among those to have already been fined for breaking Covid laws as part of the Met’s investigation into No 10 parties.

The Sunday Mirror reported that more fines have been issued to people who attended a No 10 Christmas party on December 18, 2020 – the event which triggered aide Allegra Stratton’s resignation after she was caught joking about it on camera at a mock press conference.

Mr Johnson is not believed to have attended that event.