Sir Keir fights back over Partygate: Tories are trying to drag us ‘into the gutter’

17 January 2022, 09:30 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 09:43

Call Keir: Sir Keir Starmer rejects calls to apologise over beer with staff photo

By Asher McShane

Sir Keir Starmer today rejected calls to apologise for the 'impression given' by a picture of him drinking a beer with colleagues during lockdown.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari on Call Keir on LBC, the Labour leader defended his actions, saying: "We didn’t break any rules, we were working in the office and stopped for a takeaway.

"I understand what’s going on here, which is exactly what happened with Owen Paterson.

"There comes a point where the Tories try to take everybody into the gutter with them. That’s what’s happening here.

"We were working in the office and a takeaway turned up and we stopped and we ate it. There was no breach of the rules, no party, no comparison with the PM.

Read more: 'Boris said sorry, Keir should too': Zahawi blasts Labour leader over partygate

Read more: 'It would've been for work': Rachel Johnson breaks silence on partygate

Sir Keir Starmer said the Tories are trying to drag Labour into the gutter with them
Sir Keir Starmer said the Tories are trying to drag Labour into the gutter with them. Picture: Alamy/LBC

"The PM is facing allegations of multiple parties. There is simply no comparison."

He went on to say the photo is "a million miles away" from reports of parties at Downing Street.

Sir Keir said the public had already made up its mind and that the whole country was laughing at government.

“I don’t think the public are waiting for a Sue Gray report to make their mind up," he said.

“We [politicians] are waiting for the Sue Gray report but I think the public’s made its mind up.

"There’s anger at the Prime Minister, there’s actually ridicule – people are joking about it – and once the country is no longer laughing with you, but laughing at you, you really are in a bad place as Prime Minister.”

Sir Keir was seen drinking in a Labour office during a time when indoor socialising was banned.

The footage of Sir Keir taken on April 30, 2021, shows the Labour leader with a bottle in one hand. He is pictured chatting with a woman believed to be fellow Labour MP Mary Foy in her constituency office in Durham.

At least five people appeared to be inside the room.

Earlier Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that Sir Keir Starmer should apologise just as Boris Johnson did, after the image re-emerged.

Mr Zahawi called for the Labour leader to apologise.

He cited the Prime Minister's apology for attending a party on 20 May 2020, and went on to criticise Sir Keir Starmer's actions: "What I saw in that video is Keir Starmer, swigging a bottle of beer, other people around him, indoors and it looked like it was 10pm at night.

"So I don't know how he can say that was a different type of event to what the Prime Minister went to in his garden."

Boris Johnson has reportedly been interviewed as part of the investigation into partygate allegations as claims of another lockdown breach in No 10 surfaced.

The Prime Minister is said to have "shared what he knows" with senior civil servant Sue Gray about alleged parties in Downing Street as she prepares to publish her report into claims of coronavirus rule flouting as soon as this week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It comes as The Mirror said Mr Johnson attended a leaving do before Christmas 2020 during which he gave a speech to mark the departure of his defence adviser Captain Steve Higham.

No 10 did not respond to request for comment and the Ministry of Defence declined. The leaving do claim is the latest in a long line of allegations about rule breaking in Downing Street, with Ms Gray looking into a litany of possible events, including a "bring your own booze" garden party during the first coronavirus lockdown that Mr Johnson has admitted he attended - although he insists he understood it to be a "work event".

Mr Johnson's sister, journalist and LBC presenter Rachel Johnson, told her listeners on Sunday that the Prime Minister was "completely compliant" with Covid rules whenever they met under restrictions.

Referring to the May 20 2020 BYOB event, she said: "To my mind, if he did go out into the garden, and he has told us he did, for him that would have been work." In a bid to survive the partygate storm, reports have suggested Mr Johnson could overhaul his top team, with the likes of his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email inviting staff to enjoy the good weather in the No 10 garden in May 2020, being shown the door as part of a move said to have been dubbed "Operation: Save Big Dog".

The Times said a bid to save Mr Johnson's premiership would include an announcement putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel, as the Prime Minister looks to push "populist" policies.

A change being considered could, according to the newspaper, include processing asylum seekers in Ghana and Rwanda, although the Home Office would not be drawn on such suggestions.

Other touted policy announcements include attempts to reduce the NHS backlog and freeze the BBC licence fee for two years, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries hinting that the current model for funding the public broadcaster could be scrapped altogether.

Social media pictures surfaced on Sunday, apparently showing the office of Robert Largan, the Tory MP for High Peak, graffitied repeatedly with the words "Lies".