A memo obtained by a national newspaper has cast doubt on the Labour leader’s claims that he did not breach any rules when he had a beer and a takeaway with colleagues while COVID restrictions were in place.
Sir Keir Starmer said he was working and stopped to eat when he was filmed having a beer in a room in Durham last April, when COVID rules banned household mixing indoors apart from working.
“As I’ve explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat, there was no party, no breach of the rules,” he said.
“I’m confident of that but the police have to do their job.”
But a leaked memo obtained by The Mail On Sunday indicated the dinner had been listed on the schedule for a day in April 2021 during the local election and Hartlepool by-election campaign.
The document stated that there would be a “dinner in Miners Hall” with City of Durham MP Mary Foy from 8.40pm to 10pm.
A note indicated a member of staff in Sir Keir’s office was to arrange a takeaway from the Spice Lounge.
The only business listed after the dinner was for Sir Keir to walk back to his hotel – he has 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”.
An investigation into the gathering was announced by Durham Constabulary on Friday.
Earlier on Saturday, Diane Abbott became the first Labour MP to publicly say Sir Keir may have to step down if he is fined over the incident.
The shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn told LBC: “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.”
Allies of Sir Keir have refused to publicly contemplate what would happen if the Labour leader was fined.
Conservatives have been lining up to call out his “hypocrisy”, as Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News.
Sir Keir spent months calling for Boris Johnson to resign over partygate, for which the prime minister was fined last month.
How does a straight-laced ex-lawyer get caught up in a lockdown scandal?
So far, just one Labour MP – the former shadow home secretary and Corbyn-ally Diane Abbott – has put their head above the parapet and said, on the record, that Keir Starmer would need to consider his position if he gets a fixed penalty notice for breaching COVID rules.
For the most part, allies of Sir Keir are refusing to contemplate the possibility. That is partly media management, but there’s also a degree of puzzlement about the situation.
How does the straight-laced ex-lawyer who probably wouldn’t go to a legal party end up getting caught out in a potentially lockdown-busting bash?
Read more in the Politics Hub
The Labour leader has argued that no rules were broken and they had stopped to eat the meal and then resumed their work during the Hartlepool by-election.
He told Sky News on Friday: “We were working in the office, we stopped for something to eat, no party, no breach of the rules.
“The police obviously have their job to do and we should let them get on with it but I’m confident no rules were broken.”
Some top Labour MPs have admitted he might have to resign if he receives a fine, but have done so anonymously.
A shadow minister told Sky News: “It really doesn’t feel like the same to me, but I guess we will need to see what happens if he’s fined. I guess it’s tough when we’ve called on the PM to resign.”
A former shadow cabinet minister said: “If he’s fined then yes [he should resign], but I doubt he will be.”