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

7 May 2022, 09:39 | Updated: 7 May 2022, 09:42

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was grilled on whether Keir Starmer should resign by LBC's Andrew Castle.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was grilled on whether Keir Starmer should resign by LBC's Andrew Castle. Picture: Alamy/Supplied/LBC

By Sophie Barnett

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was unable to answer whether Sir Keir Starmer should resign if he’s found to have broken the law over 'Beergate' allegations.

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The Education Secretary dodged questions from LBC's Andrew Castle on whether the Labour leader should go if found to have breached Covid-19 regulations, after Boris Johnson refused to resign despite being fined by the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Zahawi said we should "wait for the police investigation" as he was quizzed on whether he would call for the opposition leader to step down.

Pressed on whether Sir Keir is guilty of breaking the rules, and therefore the law, Mr Zahawi stumbled: "Well they certainly, you know, were, no, not quite, sort of, telling the truth...about Angela Rayner attending the party."

"If someone breaks the law and gets a fine should they go?"

"I think we have to wait for the police investigation, Andrew, that's the responsible thing to do," Mr Zahawi said.

Read more: Keir Starmer insists 'no rules were broken' after police confirm 'Beergate' investigation

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Pictures emerged of Sir Keir Starmer drinking beer in Durham in April 2021.
Pictures emerged of Sir Keir Starmer drinking beer in Durham in April 2021. Picture: Supplied

"I think the hypocrisy of the way they focussed so much on parties and not on the economy, not on cost of living, is something that the public will be aware of."

Appearing to become frustrated with the minister, Andrew asked: "Nadhim, you are such a bright guy we all know that, if he is fined, Sir Keir Starmer, for breaking Covid regulations, should he resign?"

"Well, let's wait and see what the investigation says, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals because it is unfair."

"Because if you said yes you would have had to have called for the head of your own leader, the Prime Minister himself, right?"

"Well, no - I think due process is important in our country, one of the great values of the people of this great Isle is that we follow due process and actually it's right to wait for the police to investigate and come back," Mr Zahawi said.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn: Keir Starmer Beergate investigation 'very serious'

Read more: 'Self-righteous' Keir Starmer has questions to answer over 'Beergate', says minister

It comes after Durham Constabulary confirmed it will be investigating the Labour leader after footage emerged of him drinking a beer with colleagues in April 2021 while campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election.

The Labour leader has insisted there was "no party" and "no rules were broken".

At the time of the 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.

In the light of the partygate scandal, and the fines which were issued to Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Durham police were asked by Conservative MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) to reconsider their assessment that no offence was committed during the meeting.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Sir Keir said: "As I've explained a number of times, we were working in the office, we stopped for something to eat - no party, no breach of the rules.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. Picture: Alamy

"The police obviously have got their job to do, we should let them get on with it.

"But I'm confident that no rules were broken.

"Meanwhile, we've had a really good set of results today."

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier told LBC that whilst it is a "very serious development", he wouldn't be drawn on whether Sir Keir should resign if he is fined by police, as he did not want to pre-empt a police investigation.

Read more: Boris and Rishi say sorry over Partygate fines but insist they won't quit

While Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it was "only a matter of time" before Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would be investigated.

Writing on Twitter, he said: "Only a matter of time. The law should be applied fairly and consistently across the country."

Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Rishi Sunak are among those to have already been fined for breaking Covid laws.

The Metropolitan Police said no further partygate fines would be issued until after the May local elections, with more expected to be announced in the coming weeks.