Rattled Starmer pulls out of major speech amid Beergate 'hypocrisy' claims

9 May 2022, 00:01 | Updated: 9 May 2022, 11:34

Keir Starmer has faced criticism over the 'Beergate' event.
Keir Starmer has faced criticism over the 'Beergate' event. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pulled out of an event amid "hypocrisy" claims over 'Beergate'.

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He was due to give a major speech on Monday afternoon at the Institute for Government to discuss the "challenges the country faces".

But his aides cancelled the appearance on Sunday without giving any explanation.

Sir Keir has faced a growing backlash from MPs after Durham Constabulary confirmed it was investigating claims an evening event he attended with other senior party figures and activists last year might have broken rules in place.

The party leader was pictured having a beer and curry at a campaign event, with a leaked memo showing the event was planned in advance.

However, he has said he is "confident" that he did not breach lockdown rules.

Tory ministers have since lined up to accuse Sir Keir of "hypocrisy" after he called for Boris Johnson to quit when he faced a Scotland Yard probe into No10 parties.

Read more: What has Keir Starmer done? And what exactly is Beergate?

Read more: Minister refuses to say whether Keir Starmer should resign if he broke law over 'Beergate'

Sir Keir was pictured at the gathering.
Sir Keir was pictured at the gathering. Picture: Alamy

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said: "Starmer claimed it was an impromptu curry. Turns out it was pre-planned.

"Starmer claimed nowhere served food. Turns out that loads of places did.

"[Angela] Rayner claimed she wasn't there. Turns out she was. Hypocrisy and dishonesty in equal measure."

Dominic Raab echoed the sentiment on Sunday, telling Sky: "Keir Starmer looks like, I'm afraid, someone who is engaged in complete hypocrisy, complete double standards and I don't think he is going to get past that until he gives a proper account of what happened in Durham."

Meanwhile, shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy refused seven times to say whether she thought the Labour leader should resign if he is fined for breaking lockdown rules.

She told Sky: "He is Mr Rules. He does not break the rules.

"He was the director of public prosecutions, not somebody who goes around tearing up rules when it suits him."

The leaked memo, published by the Mail on Sunday, indicated that the dinner in Durham had been planned on the schedule for Sir Keir's day of campaigning in April 2021.

The document stated that there would be a "dinner in Miners Hall" with City of Durham MP Mary Foy from 8.40pm to 10pm - and a note indicated 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 was for him to walk back to his hotel.

Sir Keir 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".

A spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition's office previously 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.

On Saturday, Labour MP Diane Abbott told LBC that Mr Starmer should "consider his position" if he received a fixed penalty notice from Durham police.

She said: "If he actually gets a fixed penalty notice he really has to consider his position. I mean, I don't think he will, I think this is a lot of sort of hype built up by the Tory press.

"But if he were to get a fixed penalty notice he would have to consider his position."

Ms Abbott denied that she was implying he should resign.

"He should think about his position and decide what is best. And that is only if he actually gets a fixed penalty notice!" she said.

"That's just logical."

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