Keir Starmer grins as he gives a speech offering UK a 'fresh start'

Gloating Keir Starmer grins as he gives lectern speech to offer a ‘fresh start’ in government after the Labour leader and Angela Rayner were cleared over Beergate as police said they had ‘no case to answer’

  • Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner won’t be fined by police over Beergate row and escape having to resign
  • Labour leader and his deputy cleared of breaking Covid rules over boozy curry with 15 others in April last year
  • Durham Constabulary agree with their argument the gathering was ‘work event’ and say no action to be taken

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was all smiles as he arrived to give a speech from a lectern today to lay out his vision for the country following the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and after he and his deputy Angela Rayner escaped being fined by police over their Beergate row.

The gloating missive, in which he promised to give Britain ‘the fresh start it needs’, came shortly after Durham Constabulary agreed with the pair’s argument that a boozy curry they held indoors with 15 others in April last year was indeed a ‘work event’.

Sir Keir vowed to ‘change lives’ as PM, promising to set out in the coming days how a ‘reforming Labour government’ would ‘revitalise’ the country’s economy and ‘services’. 

He admitted he was ‘not perfect’ and would ‘make mistakes along the way’, adding that he knows he has to ‘convince’ the public to vote for him. 

The decision by police to not fine Labour’s two most senior figures means they will not have to see through their pledge to resign, an offer which Sir Keir said had been a ‘matter of principle’. 

He said: ‘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 those who make the law can’t break the law. But we have to set the bar far higher than that.’

He dismissed suggestions the police had bowed to any political pressure over their Beergate investigation.

Sir Keir was all smiles as he took to a lectern to deliver a speech after receiving no fine for the Beergate scandal

Sir Keir Starmer gave a press conference this afternoon after it was announced he won’t be fined over the 17-strong indoor gathering on 30th April last year

Sir Keir vowed to ‘change lives’ as PM, promising to set out in the coming days how a ‘reforming Labour government’ would ‘revitalise’ the country’s economy and ‘services’

Sir Keir added: ‘I spent five years as director of public prosecutions working with all the police forces across the whole country. There were no end of politicians who tried to tell the police what to do.

‘I’m not going to do that, they make their decisions and I respect whatever decisions they’ve come to.

‘Here they’ve come to a clear conclusion that there was no case to answer.’

Sir Keir also insisted he would not listen to ‘noises off’ when it was suggested to him that Tory MPs would be celebrating him remaining as Labour leader – as he is a less threatening prospect than other potential rivals.

‘I had no end of people telling me in 2020 when I took over the Labour Party that it was impossible to get from where we’d landed in 2019 to a prospect of a Labour government,’ he said.

‘I didn’t believe it and we’ve pressed on. We’ve got really good local election results and a fantastic swing in Wakefield.

‘So I block out the noise, we plough on and if there was a general election, this Government will fall.’

The force found there was ‘no case to answer’ after concluding their probe into claims the gathering – held at the Miner’s Hall in Durham – breached Covid regulations.

Sir Keir and Ms Rayner had both previously promised to stand down if they were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for breaking lockdown rules.

At the time of the Durham event, England was in the ‘Step 2’ rules that banned people from gathering indoors with people not from your own household. However, there was an exemption for ‘work purposes’. 

Sir Keir had repeatedly insisted he and his colleagues returned to their duties after sharing a takeaway and beers in the run-up to local council elections and the Hartlepool by-election last year. 

Durham Constabulary found the 30th April event was ‘reasonably necessary work’ and said they would not be issuing any fines and ‘no further action will be taken’.

Tories accused Sir Keir and Ms Rayner of ‘effectively blackmailing’ police with their vow to resign if they were found to have breached Covid rules.

The Labour leader pictured at Wimbledon’s Centre Court yesterday, had faced the prospect of having to resign had he been fined by police over his Beergate row

Sir Keir was seen sharing a laugh with Liberal Democrat peer Floella Benjamin as he enjoyed a day at the tennis

Sir Keir and his wife, Victoria, shared a public display of affection as they sat in Centre Court’s Royal Box on women’s semi-finals day

Labour deputy Angela Rayner was also present at the boozy curry on 30th April – but police agreed with her and Sir Keir’s claim it was a ‘work event’

What were the Covid rules at the time of Beergate? 

The Beergate event, on 30th April 2021, came during the period of time when England was under ‘Step 2’ restrictions.

On meeting others, the rules said: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.

‘You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.’

However, there was a general exception to the rules on gatherings if an event was for ‘work purposes’.

They also contrasted Sir Keir’s dodging of an FPN from Durham Constabulary to the Metropolitan Police’s decision to fine the Prime Minister over the Partygate row.

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told MailOnline: ‘I am surprised how Durham Police decided not to fine Starmer and Rayner.

‘Many people will think that, as a QC and a lawyer, Starmer wormed his way out of a conviction while, in effect, blackmailing Durham Police by saying: ‘You’ll be bringing down the Leader of the Opposition if you fine me’.

‘Many regular people will feel this is another Establishment stitch-up.’

Mr Johnson, as well as ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were both fined for attending a 56th birthday celebration for the PM – which he had been unaware was being planned – in Number 10.

A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray found the gathering, on 19th June 2020, lasted ‘around 20-30 minutes’ and included sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and cans of beer. 

A Tory source said: ‘People in Durham will be surprised to learn that Keir Starmer and Angela 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 Keir Starmer held himself to the standards he demands of others he would have resigned two months ago.’

Sir Keir and Ms Rayner both called for Mr Johnson to resign as PM when the Met Police first launched their Partygate probe back in January and before any fines had been issued by Scotland Yard.

Sir Keir and Ms Rayner sent back a questionnaire about Beergate to Durham Constabulary three weeks ago – 18 days after they received it from the force – and had been left sweating on the outcome of the police investigation.

Their promise to resign – if they had been fined – had left open the prospect of a Labour leadership contest being run simultaneously to the battle to become Boris Johnson’s replacement as Tory leader.

Tory MP Richard Holden, who had written a series of letters to Durham Constabulary about the Beergate row, made light of the police findings today.

He posted on Twitter: ‘After protestations from some of my team, I want to reassure my constituents that my staff have been told that curry and beer are not ‘reasonably necessary for work’ and anyone thinking of turning up intoxicated & smelling like a ‘greasy night’ out will get short shrift.’

Announcing their findings on the Beergate event earlier, Durham Constabulary said in a statement: ‘A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering.

‘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.’

In May 2020, the same police force said Dominic Cummings, the PM’s then chief adviser, might have committed a ‘minor’ breach of Covid rules with his lockdown trip to Barnard Castle.

But they said they would not act retrospectively against the then Number 10 aide.

Following today’s police announcement, Sir Keir had posted on Twitter: ‘I’ve always said no rules were broken when I was in Durham. The police have completed their investigation and agreed: there is no case to answer.

‘For me, this was always a matter of principle. Honesty and integrity matter. You will always get that from me.’

When she was told of the news during a meeting with trade union officials, Ms Rayner said: ‘Lo and behold. I’m not a criminal.’

She also tweeted: ‘We’ve always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham. The police have completed their investigation and agreed, saying that there is no case to answer.

‘Integrity matters in politics. The contrast with the behaviour of this disgraced Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer.’ 

Boris Johnson and ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by the Metropolitan Police over a 56th birthday event for the PM in Number 10, pictured

A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray found the Downing Street gathering, on 19th June 2020, lasted ‘around 20-30 minutes’ and included sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and cans of beer

Durham Constabulary found the Beergate event, on 30th April, was ‘reasonably necessary work’ and said they would not be issuing any fines and ‘no further action will be taken’

Mr Johnson intends to carry on as a ‘caretaker’ PM for the time being, while a new Conservative leader is chosen to succeed him

At his press conference, Sir Keir stepped up a threat to force a confidence vote in the Government if Mr Johnson does not leave Number 10 immediately.

Asked if the move – which could trigger a general election – was the right way forward, the Labour leader said:  ‘Yes, we’ve been stuck in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis with a Government that can’t deliver, with a Prime Minister who is not fit to be Prime Minister.

‘It’s not just about the last few months either. We’ve had 12 years of stagnation, 12 years of low growth. So Britain deserves that fresh start that can only come with a change of government.’

Earlier today, Ms Rayner called on Tory MPs to ‘get their act together’ and hasten the Prime Minister’s exit, or face a Labour effort to bring down the Government if they don’t.

After seeing swathes of Tory MPs and ministers desert him in a tumultuous 48-hour period, the PM yesterday announced his resignation.

But he intends to carry on as a ‘caretaker’ PM for the time being, while a new Conservative leader is chosen to succeed him.

It means Mr Johnson could remain in Downing Street for many weeks yet. 

This has angered Tory critics who want him to go immediately – with some touting Deputy PM Dominic Raab as an interim replacement. 

Labour are now effectively daring those Tory rebels to take action. 

Sir Keir has vowed to bring forward a confidence motion in the House of Commons if Mr Johnson does not vacate No10 swiftly.

By convention, the Government always accepts a demand from the Leader of the Opposition for a confidence motion.

Should the Government then lose a vote on that motion, it could trigger a general election.

Ms Rayner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If the Conservatives don’t get their act together and get rid of Boris Johnson – you know, he’s got no confidence of his own party.

‘He’s a proven liar who’s engulfed in sleaze and we can’t have another couple of months of this.

‘So they do have to get rid of him, and if they don’t, we will call a no confidence vote because it’s pretty clear – he hasn’t got the confidence of the House or the British public.’

Despite their attempts to hasten Mr Johnson’s exit as PM, Labour risk uniting the Tories if they do push through a confidence vote.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who is among those who demanded Mr Johnson resign, has branded Sir Keir’s plan as ‘futile’ as he insisted Conservatives would be unlikely to topple their own Government and force a general election.

He told LBC: ‘Every time Labour try and put confidence votes on the Conservatives all it does is force Conservatives to line up behind Boris Johnson.

‘It would be futile. The last thing the country needs is a general election.’

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