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Yesterday the Labour leader and his deputy Angela Rayner escaped being fined by Durham Police for enjoying a boozy curry evening while on the campaign trail. They had both promised to resign if the probe found that they had broken lockdown rules in the offices of Durham Labour MP Mary Foy, one in April 2021.
Sir Keir said he will now focus on plans to offer the UK a “fresh start” – although he refused to rule out a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant said he was “surprised” Durham Police did not fine the pair, adding: “Many regular people will feel this is another establishment stitch-up.”
A Conservative source said: “People in Durham will be surprised to learn that Keir Starmer andAngela Rayner were allowed to stand around drinking inside after work with people from outside their household under Covid restrictions.
“Other forces have obviously taken a different view. Of course, if Starmer held himself to the standards he demands of others, he’d have resigned two months ago.”
The Labour leader was filmed drinking a beer as takeaway curries were served up during the campaign stop ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.
Durham Police revealed it found there was no case to answer after a probe into whether they broke lockdown rules.
Sir Keir gave a press conference yesterday after the ruling, saying: “People said to me I was taking a risk by saying I would step down if I was fined.
“But it was never about that. For me, it was a matter of principle.
“It shouldn’t be controversial to say that those who make the law can’t break the law. But we have to set the bar far higher than that.”
Durham Police said the restrictions in place at the time on social n gatherings had not been violated due to the application of an exception – the contact was “reasonably necessary for work”.
If the investigation had resulted in fixedpenalty notices, it would have plunged the party into political turmoil just as No10 was grappling with the resignation of Boris Johnson.
The default fine for attending a gathering or committing other offences was £200, although far larger fines could be given for large events or organisers.
The Labour honchos gathered at a time when non-essential retail ntial and outdoor venues were open but social distancing rules, such as a ban on indoor mixing between households, still applied.
Durham Police initially found there was no evidence of rulebreaking, batNTH but looked at the case again after the intervention of North West Durham Tory MP Richard Holden in April.
A police spokesman said: “Following the emergence of significant new information, an investigation was launched by Durham Constabulary investi Du into a gathering at the Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, Durham on April 30 2021. [It] has now concluded.
“A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering.
Evidence “Following the application of the evidential Full Code Test, it has been concluded that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.
“Accordingly, Durham Constabulary will not be issuing any fixed-penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken. The investiga- tion has been thorough, detailed and proportionate.
“The final evidence supplied by participants from the local constituency was returned to Durham Police on July 5 and analysed by investigators against all the evidence before the investigation was concluded on July 8, 2022.”
Local MP Mr Holden joked that he wants to “reassure constituents that my staff have been told that curry and beer are not ‘reasonably necessary for work’ and anyone thinking of turning up intoxicated and smelling like a ‘greasy night’ out will get short shrift”.
Declaring his new plans for the country, Sir Keir ruled out doing a deal with the SNP before or after the election – stating that there was no basis “for an alliance with a party who wants to break up the
United Kingdom”. But he dodged questions about whether he would join up with the Lib Dems.
He told reporters: “I won’t get everything right.
“I’m certainly not perfect and I will make mistakes along the way. But what you will always get from me is someone who believes honesty and integrity matter.”
Ms Rayner agreed, saying: “Integrity matters in politics. The contrast with the behaviour of this disgraced Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer.”
Sir Keir also stressed that a general election is the solution to the recent chaos in Westminster, but denied that he was playing politics over the issue of a confidence vote.
“If there’s a general election, this Government will fall and we’ve got a plan for the country,” he added.
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