Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner receive police questionnaires over 'Beergate'

31 May 2022, 18:53 | Updated: 20 October 2022, 11:55

Labour confirmed questionnaires had been sent out
Labour confirmed questionnaires had been sent out. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have received police questionnaires over the 'Beergate' gathering.

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Durham police are investigating whether the Labour leader and his deputy leader broke coronavirus rules last April.

It comes after images emerged of Sir Keir drinking and eating a curry with colleagues while campaigning for the Hartlepool by election.

Ms Rayner was also at the event - dubbed 'Beergate' in the wake of the Downing Street 'Partygate' investigation into lockdown breaches.

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.

However, Labour has maintained that no rules were broken during the reported incident.

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They said after a day campaigning and an evening at work in the office, they shared a drink and takeaway.

At the time, the rules stated indoor gatherings were allowed for "work purposes" and that food could be consumed together if "reasonably necessary for work".

Starmer has claimed if they did not get a takeaway, no one would be eating that night as restaurants were closed and the hotel they were staying in wasn't serving food.

Earlier this month, Durham Constabulary announced they had reversed an earlier decision that no offence had been committed, after receiving "significant new information".

Both Sir Keir and Ms Rayner have said they will resign if they receive a fixed penalty notice (FPN) following the investigation.

Sir Keir said he has put "everything on the line" by promising to resign if he is fined by police.

He said the so-called "Beergate" saga was a "completely different situation" to the Downing Street events, saying there had been "industrial-scale rule breaking" there and that was why he told Boris Johnson to resign after he was being investigated.

On Tuesday, a Labour Party spokesperson said: "Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have received questionnaires from Durham Constabulary."

Beergate campaign isn't cutting through, pollster says

Labour has sought to contrast Sir Keir's actions with those of Boris Johnson, who has refused to quit after being fined by the Met Police over a gathering in No 10 in June 2020 to mark his 56th birthday.

Labour sources are confident they can prove the Durham event was work-related.

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were among those who received fines over lockdown breaches in No10.

The Metropolitan Police announced last week that Operation Hillman has resulted in 126 fixed penalty notices (FPN) being dished out to those who were found to have broken the rules.

A total of 53 men and 73 women received fines, with the Met saying 28 received between two and five FPNs.