Keir Starmer Pledges to Quit if Fined By Police Over Beergate

Keir Starmer has gambled his career on being cleared over Beergate by making an extraordinary vow to quit if he is fined by police – with Angela Rayner also promising to do the same. MailOnline has the story.

The Labour leader gave a statement after spending hours hunkered down with aides trying to decide how to handle the mounting crisis over the boozy curry event in April last year.

He insisted he is “absolutely clear” no rules were broken and he believes in “honour and integrity” – saying he is “very different” from Boris Johnson. 

Sir Keir said he had self-isolated six times, and obeyed the rules when his father-in-law was ill, suggesting even his opponents did not really believe he would have breached them in Durham. 

“If the police decide to issue me with a FPN I would of course do the right thing and step down,’ he said – although pushed by journalists he declined to say what he would do if police merely rebuke him publicly. 

Angela Rayner echoed his stance, saying in a statement: “If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down.”

The intervention – which raised the prospect of Labour being left without either of its two top politicians – came after a day of building tension, which saw Sir Keir cancel a think-tank event where he would have been grilled by journalists and ignored questions as he left his London home this morning.

He has agreed with senior figures urging him to get on the front foot by committing to resign should Durham Police find he broke Covid rules.

The strategy is high-risk but could potentially leave Sir Keir in a strong position if police do not issue a penalty – while allies suspect he would need to go anyway were he to receive a fine. It also means he will have more leverage in clashes with Mr. Johnson after the Queen’s Speech tomorrow.

He must be hoping the officer in charge of the case isn’t a Tory.

Worth reading in full.

Prince Harry Launches New Eco-Project Telling People Who Fly to New Zealand on Holiday to Save the Planet by Re-using Their Towel

Prince Harry has starred in a skit promoting his new eco-travel project in which holidaymakers are “rated” on their green credentials. MailOnline has more.

In a five-minute video published on the YouTube page of the duke’s non-profit Travalyst today, the Queen’s grandson goes for a jog through California which doubles as the backdrop for “New Zealand woodland”.

He is then ambushed by “rating agent” Rhys Darby, who accuses him of dropping a lolly wrapper four years earlier on a trip to the country with wife Meghan.

The video, which also features Kiwi actors David Fane and Rena Owen, launches the first-ever initiative launched in New Zealand for the British prince’s non-profit Travalyst organisation, founded in 2019, in which holidaymakers, rather than holidays, are rated for how sustainable they are. Kiwis now have access to a rating tool on the Travalyst website as part of a pilot initiative encouraging travellers to consider sustainable options during planning for their next trip.

It is unclear why the Duke chose New Zealand for the project, but Harry is known to love the country and considered moving there with Meghan when they quit as frontline royals, before opting for LA instead. 

He told Māori television’s current affairs programme Te Ao with Moana: “The Māori culture inherently understands sustainable practices and taking better care of our life-giving land, which are critical lessons we can all learn and that is why I’m here with you to share a new kaupapa.'”

In the skit, Harry – who is dressed in a grey “Girl Dad” T-shirt and sporting Apple Airpod headphones – is at first given three stars out of five, and then three and a half – as stamps on his arm – for only using one towel and for buying local honey. He is also praised for not leaving the tap running while brushing his teeth.

Leaked Memo Undermines Keir Starmer ‘Beergate’ Defence, Increasing Pressure to Resign

Keir Starmer is in very hot water after the Mail on Sunday obtained a secret Labour Party document which appears to blow apart his version of events over ‘Beergate’. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

An operational note drawn up ahead of Sir Keir’s notorious visit to Durham, where he was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with activists, reveals the gathering had been planned in advance. 

The bombshell document, marked “private and confidential”, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.

After the entry recording the “dinner in Miners Hall” – which includes a note to “arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge”, a local curry house – the document simply says: “End of visit”.

The dramatic revelation follows the announcement by Durham Constabulary on Friday that it was opening a fresh investigation into the event on April 30th last year, which took place when indoor socialising was illegal. 

The inquiry comes after a series of revelations in the Daily Mail.

The memo – which was passed to this newspaper by a whistleblower – also further undermines Labour’s claims that it made “an honest mistake” when it denied that Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was at the event: it lists “AR” alongside “KS” as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.

The Labour leader – who is also under pressure from party members over his failure to make a significant U.K.-wide breakthrough in last week’s local elections – is facing accusations of hypocrisy, having called for Boris Johnson’s resignation in January when Scotland Yard launched its inquiry into claims of No. 10 lockdown-breaking.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said last night: “Being investigated or receiving a fixed-penalty notice is not a resigning matter for anyone at all – unless of course you’ve daily argued the case that it is just that and repeatedly called for the resignation of others. He’s bang to rights and has no choice but to resign thanks to his own sanctimonious hypocrisy.”

Worth reading in full.

Keir Starmer to be Investigated by Police Over ‘Beergate’

Keir Starmer faces a police investigation into his lockdown curry, after repeatedly demanding Boris Johnson should quit for breaching rules in similar circumstances. MailOnline has more.

The Labour leader is at risk of being engulfed by the so-called ‘Beergate’ row after Durham Police dramatically declared it will probe “significant new information” about the gathering. 

The force initially decided Sir Keir did not breach Covid rules when he and party aides had drinks and a takeaway in April 2021, when millions of Britons were banned from mixing indoors in most circumstances. But following intense pressure and a series of revelations – including that up to 30 people attended and shared £200 worth of food – the position has shifted.

Sir Keir maintained a stony silence as journalists threw questions about the situation on a visit to Carlisle this afternoon. Labour said the party was “happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken”. 

However, there is frustration among Tories that the decision was only taken after the local elections – when the PM’s own fine over the Partygate scandal damaged his support.

The development could raise serious doubts over Sir Keir’s future, as he trenchantly argued that Mr Johnson should resign when he was found to have broken the law. 

Sir Keir had been filmed drinking a bottle of lager with colleagues at the event at the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy in the run-up to last year’s local elections – and has been wriggling when asked about the incident all week.

Sadiq Khan risked inflaming the row earlier this week by admitting there was “equivalence” between Keir Starmer’s actions and the PM’s birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 – which has seen him and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined. Mr. Khan suggested the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once.

Tory MP Richard Holden, backed by several ministers, wrote to Durham Constabulary insisting there was now “incontrovertible” evidence Labour had “lied” about the events of a year ago, including there now disproved claim that the deputy leader Angela Rayner was not there. 

Boris Johnson Accused of “Instigating” Downing Street Lockdown Party as Tory Rebels Plot His Downfall After May Elections

Boris Johnson has been accused of having “instigated” a Downing Street party, as Tory MPs claim he could face a fresh coup attempt after the May elections. The Telegraph has more.

The Prime Minister faced accusations that an office gathering to mark the exit of Lee Cain, the former Number 10 Director of Communications, was not a party “until he arrived”.

It has been claimed that a photographer was present and captured pictures of Mr. Johnson at the event, which took place on November 13th 2020.

Downing Street did not dispute the description of the event but said it was untrue that Mr. Johnson had organised it.

The Prime Minister’s actions at the event – which allegedly included delivering a speech, pouring drinks for people and drinking himself – will threaten to derail his argument that “all rules were followed”.

Mr. Johnson is expected to receive a second fine from the Metropolitan Police, with organisers of large gatherings facing penalties of up to £10,000.

Senior Conservative MPs said that if the party performed poorly in next month’s local elections, this could provide a fresh pretext for attempts to move against the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson is preparing for one of the toughest political weeks of his time in office, as he faces MPs in the Commons tomorrow to give a statement over his “partygate” fine.

Worth reading in full.

Nic Sturge-on Reported to Police For Breaking Her Own Mask Mandate

Scotland’s Supreme Leader, Nic Sturge-on, has been reported to the police after footage emerged showing her apparently breaching Scotland’s Covid face mask rules on the council election campaign trail. GB News has more.

A video posted on social media appears to show Scotland’s First Minister not wearing a mask during a visit to a barber’s in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, on Saturday.

There is currently a legal requirement to wear a face covering in most indoor public places in Scotland, including shops, public transport and hairdressers.

In the video, Ms. Sturgeon appears to be seen without a face covering as she mingles with customers and pats the head of a man in a barber’s chair while mimicking the sound of an electric razor.

The First Minister is wearing a tartan face mask in the video of her visit to Iconic Gents Hair posted on her official Twitter account, in which she can be seen shaving a man’s beard.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received a complaint which is currently being assessed.”

The legal requirement to wear a face mask in indoor settings in Scotland moves into guidance on Monday, however the Scottish Government has strongly recommended that people continue to wear them where appropriate.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The video clearly shows Nicola Sturgeon isn’t practicing what she preaches on facemasks.

“She’s happy virtue signalling for official photos but behind closed doors it’s clear she doesn’t believe in her own rules so why should anyone else?

“This is blatant hypocrisy from the First Minister who has now shown her true colours.

“The public, who have been under these legal Covid restrictions for over two years, deserve an apology for this rule break.”

In December 2020, Ms. Sturgeon apologised after she breached Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake.

She described it as “a stupid mistake”, and said: “I’m really sorry.”

Worth reading in full.

In case readers have forgotten, Nicola Sturgeon called on Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunack to resign five days ago after they were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices for breaking their own Covid rules.

Boris is the Cavalier Who Let the Puritans Win and is Now Paying the Price

The history of England is one of an uneasy alliance between two traditions. The first is that of the Libertine, the fun-loving rake, which reaches its apogee in the character of Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Politically, the Libertine is akin to the Civil War Cavalier: a romantic figure full of fun and adventure, willing to brook all the trauma and tragedy of life provided he is left alone.

The second is that of the Puritan, the austere number cruncher, devoid of fun but desperately trying to save your life or soul with ‘facts-facts-facts’, as Dickens’ Gradgrind – the archetypal Puritan – would have it. Politically, Puritans are the Civil War Roundheads: great talkers for rights, freedom and dignity, but give them an inch and they’ll cancel Christmas and close the theatres.

The Cavalier concept of liberty is particularly pertinent when addressing the issue of home. It is an old adage in England that ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. This phrase has always meant that despite what ravages affect the outside world, what happens within the four walls of one’s house are strictly private affair, upon which not even the state has a right to intrude. Pitt the Elder alluded to this when he said:

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

The Libertine takes these words to be sacrosanct, a universal call to mind your own business. The Puritan, by contrast, is that much-despised figure throughout the Anglosphere: the nosey parker, determined to make everyone as miserable as they are with their incessant spying.

In 2020, the Puritans won. No longer was home the cradle from which others should keep out; it was now a danger to a regime that deemed it inexcusable to think of anything other than the spread of germs. Home was where we were all expected to stay but were given strict rules to follow while there. The common person could no longer escape the ravages of the world through entering their front door. The living room itself was now a battleground and subject to the most base intrusions – chief of these being freedom of association, which was now no longer acceptable. To have people in the home meant you were dangerous, a conspiracy theorist, a granny killer. Flying in the face of hundreds of years of tradition, police could now enter your home and issue fines if they suspected you were harbouring that nightmare called ‘other people’. You could be locked up, brutalised and spied upon with impunity. 

Sue Gray’s Report Confirms No 10 (Probably) Broke Its Own Stupid Rules

Sue Gray’s report says Number 10 probably broke its own (ludicrous) rules by continuing having gatherings with alcohol during lockdown. It refrains from confirming this either way because of the ongoing police investigation (because in the 2020s parties are a crime). The line between work with booze and socialising with booze was not clear, it says, and should be clearer.

Boris has apologised. People aren’t happy, mainly because of the hypocrisy and also out of grief over their own sacrifices. His opponents have called on him to resign. His supporters want everyone to move on. It’s not yet clear whether he lied to Parliament.

If you’re interested in this story you can read about it everywhere.

The Lesson from the Downing Street Parties Is: The Rules Were Wrong

With Labour now ten points ahead following fresh allegations of partying at No. 10, the Prime Minister’s job hangs in the balance.

While joe public was living life under lockdown, complete with hefty fines for rule-breakers, Boris and chums were living it up in the Downing Street garden. The Prime Minister has said he “implicitly believed it was a work event”. Yet the leaked invitation email told attendees to “bring your own booze!”.

This means either that the Prime Minister’s lying about what he “implicitly believed”, that he’s incapable of distinguishing work events and social events (hint: booze goes with the latter), or that he considers drinking at work to be perfectly fine.

At this point, there have been so many reported parties at 10 Downing Street (including the Daily Mirror’s latest scoop) that it’s hard to keep track of them all. You wonder how Boris and chums ever got any work done. I mean, those sweeping lockdown rules didn’t write themselves.  

The public is rightly indignant at the hypocrisy of it all. And indeed, most of the media coverage has focused on this angle. How could Boris say one thing, while he was doing another? (Well, we already knew that his policy on cake is pro-having it and pro-eating it.)

No. 10’s hypocrisy certainly should be condemned. But that’s not the most important lesson here. No, the most import lesson is: the rules were wrong. As Will Jones notes, if Boris ends up resigning, it should be for the absurd, draconian policies that made his behaviour hypocritical in the first place.

The very fact that Boris and chums were comfortable meeting up for “socially distanced drinks” at a time when the official guidance was “stay home, save lives” indicates they knew the rules were pointless. (Either that or they don’t actually care about saving lives.)

Indeed, of all the various curbs and restrictions imposed over the past two years, stay-at-home orders may be the most egregious.

For a start, they constitute a brazen violation of our civil liberties. Although an Englishman’s home is his castle, that doesn’t mean the Government has the right to besiege him there. Recall the scenes of ramblers being tracked across the countryside by drones, like something out of a Jason Bourne movie:

But on top of that, confining us in our homes serves no purpose, when transmission overwhelmingly occurs indoors. To claim the individual pictured above was posing any kind of threat to his fellow citizens is preposterous. Add the fact that staying inside means less exposure to sunlight, and you have a dog’s breakfast of a policy.

Hypocrisy from politicians is one thing. But freedom-wrecking policies are quite another. As Philippe Lemoine notes, “by focusing on their hypocrisy, we encourage the notion that the rules themselves were okay”. They weren’t.

Boris Acknowledges Public “Rage” as He Apologises For Attending No. 10 Party, Saying He Believed it Was a Work Event

Boris Johnson has apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No. 10 during the U.K.’s first lockdown in May 2020. Speaking in the Commons just before Prime Minister’s Questions amidst calls for him to resign, the PM acknowledged public “rage” over the incident but said he believed it was a work event, with the Downing Street garden being an extension of the office. Here is the Prime Minister’s apology in full, courtesy of the Telegraph.

Mr Speaker, I want to apologise. 

I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. 

I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. 

And I know the rage they feel with me or with the Government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules. 

And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right. 

And I must take responsibility. 

Number 10 is a big department with the garden as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. 

And when I went into that garden, just after six on May 20th, 2020, to thank groups and staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later, to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

But Mr Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. 

I should have found some other way to thank them. 

And I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way. 

People who suffered terribly, people who are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies. 

And all I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.

It may be that it could technically count as a work event – although the barrister Adam King doesn’t think so – and there was also a (convenient) exemption for Crown buildings that may apply. So it may well be that the gathering didn’t technically break the rules and Sue Gray will exonerate him on this.

However, it’s not just about the letter of the law. How it looks matters – even if technically within the rules, everyone knows a party when they see one. And they also know that they weren’t allowed to go to one or hold one at the time.

While seemingly a minor misdemeanour in the grand scheme of things, along with the other lockdown gatherings in Downing Street it is undoubtedly damaging to the Prime Minister. People are angry because they observed the rules themselves, sometimes at great personal cost.

It’s worth noting that Boris may be more likely to survive this because he got the big Omicron call right and resisted (or was compelled by sceptical Cabinet colleagues to resist) the calls to impose additional Covid restrictions last month.

One potential plus is that, assuming it doesn’t finish him off, it means Boris will be even less able to impose similar restrictions again. A successor may not have such difficulty, however – and some of his possible successors (e.g. Michael Gove) would have fewer qualms about doing so.

Stop Press: Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross has called for Boris to resign, saying his position “is no longer tenable”. Ross is the most senior member of the PM’s own party publicly to call for him to go, though an unnamed senior MP told Sky News‘s Sam Coates earlier in the day that Boris’s apology would be “too little, too late” and MP Sir Roger Gale has called Boris “politically a dead man walking”. Will Wragg, the Vice-Chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers has also called on him to “do the right thing” and quit. Boris is certainly in the most trouble he’s yet faced.