Sir Keir Starmer promises to resign if he broke Covid laws
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to do the “right thing” and resign if he is found to have broken Covid laws.
The Labour leader insisted he had “always” followed the rules, but promised to go if Durham police found otherwise after they reopened the investigation into “Beergate”.
Sir Keir took a defiant tone in a statement on Monday, claiming Conservatives accusing him of breaking lockdown rules were “trying to feed cynicism to get the public to believe all politicians are the same”.
The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service pointed to the public’s “collective sacrifice” during the restrictions, and said politicians had to do the same.
He said: "When my mother-in-law passed away suddenly just before the first lockdown, my wife and I were unable to provide her father the support we wanted afterwards because we followed the rules.
"Barely a day has passed where we haven’t agonised over that decision. But we did it, because we followed the rules.
"We all found following those rules frustrating at times, I’m no exception to that. I had to isolate six times during Covid, pulling me away from my work and the things I love. But I did it, because we followed the rules.
"The idea that I would then casually break those rules is wrong, and frankly I don’t believe those accusing me believe it themselves. They are just trying to feed cynicism, so the public believe all politicians are the same.
"But I am here to say they are not. I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them.
"And I believe that politicians who undermine that principle undermine trust in politics, undermine our democracy and undermine Britain."
The Labour leader insisted “no rules were broken” and the restrictions were “followed at all times”.
He continued: “I simply had something to eat whilst working late in the evening, as any politician would do days before an election.
"But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice I would, of course, do the right thing and step down.
"This matters. It matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules apply to them.
"They deserve politicians who hold themselves to the highest standards and they deserve politicians who put the country first rather than themselves. They will always get that from me.”
Campaigners from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said Sir Keir’s announcement was the “right decision” that “in contrast to Boris Johnson, shows integrity, decency and respect to the bereaved”.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner also promised to stand down if she were issued with a fine.
She said: "I’ve always been clear that I was at the event in Durham working in my capacity as deputy leader and that no rules were broken.
"Eating during a long day’s work was not against the rules. We have a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the rules, lied about it and then been fined.
"If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down."
Sir Keir had been due to speak at an Institute for Government discussion, but pulled out on Sunday, with Labour not explaining why other than to say “plans change”.
The Labour leader also did not attend a memorial service for former MP James Brokenshire at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, where he was expected to join politicians from across the divide, including the Prime Minister and Cabinet members.
At the time of the Durham 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.
But Labour argues the food was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules.
Durham Constabulary ruled Mr Cummings may have committed a “minor breach” of Covid laws when the then-chief adviser to the Prime Minister infamously visited Barnard Castle in April 2020.
But the Labour leader was facing calls to answer fresh questions after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.
Earlier on Monday Nicola Sturgeon claimed the Tory attacks on Sir Keir over “Beergate” were part of a “massive operation” to divert attention away from Mr Johnson’s “serial breaching” of lockdown rules.
The Scottish First Minister said: “What I do think is pretty obvious is that there is a massive operation under way on the part of the Conservatives to divert attention from Boris Johnson.
“And not just Boris Johnson’s single breaking of the rules, but what appears to have been a serial breaching of the rules and, of course, Boris Johnson’s inability to be straight with the House of Commons.”
Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all been fined by the Metropolitan Police as a result of their attendance at a party in Westminster that is deemed to have broken lockdown rules.
Some 46 per cent of people believe Sir Keir should resign if he is fined by police, according to a YouGov survey of 1,674 adults over the weekend.
That includes 48 per cent of those who voted Labour at the last election, which is higher than those who voted Tory at 40 per cent.
With the police investigation continuing, 54 per cent said Sir Keir either probably or definitely broke the rules.
Responding to reports on the same event, Labour MP Mary Foy denied staff were drunk while in the City of Durham MP’s constituency office.
In a statement, she said: “These allegations about my staff are untrue.
“I have already said that I and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit. I do not believe either I or my office staff broke any rules.”
Durham Constabulary declined to comment further when asked about whether it still has a policy of not issuing retrospective lockdown fines.
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