I’m an ex-police chief and I fear for democracy if cops do not reinvestigate Keir Starmer’s beer and curry night
JUSTICE should be blind and should be applied equally.
As a former senior police officer, with 28 years of policing experience, I’m well aware that the law should be enacted without fear of favour.
In February, Durham Constabulary decided no rules had been broken during an alleged beer-and-curry party attended by Sir Keir.
Now, I believe a raft of new information unearthed by journalists means a full and thorough investigation into so-called Beergate needs to follow, for the sake of our democracy.
Cast your mind back to Friday, April 30, 2021, when Labour leader Sir Keir was in the North East campaigning shortly before the Hartlepool by-election and local elections.
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At the time, Tier 2 Covid restrictions in Durham were: “You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.”
That evening, Sir Keir is said to have joined the city’s Labour MP Mary Foy and activists for beer and £200 worth of takeaway curry at Durham Miners’ Hall, where the local Labour Party offices are.
Witnesses captured grainy images of Sir Keir clutching a beer, in a 43-second video taken after 10pm.
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Labour says the gathering was allowed under an exemption for those campaigning in local elections and that no rules were broken. They say the curry and beers were a work meeting during a pause in campaign business, and that the group later resumed their toil.
Sir Keir said: “I was in a constituency office just days before the election. We were very busy, we were working in the office and we stopped for something to eat. And then we carried on working.
“That is the long and the short of it. No party, no breach of the rules and absolutely no comparison with the Prime Minister.” An investigation by Durham Police concluded in February no wrongdoing took place. However, since then, fresh evidence has emerged which I believe warrants officers now reopening their probe.
Firstly, there have been reports that the Durham constituency Labour Party advertised an online quiz night on the same evening. Labour say Sir Keir did not attend the Zoom event — and insists it was hosted from a different building.
Then came the revelation that Sir Keir’s deputy, Angela Rayner, was also at the alleged curry party — following previous denials by the Labour press team. A party source insisted that was “an honest mistake”.
A raft of new information unearthed by journalists means a full and thorough investigation into so-called Beergate needs to follow, for the sake of our democracy.Mick Neville
On Wednesday it was revealed £200 worth of food was delivered by award-winning restaurant The Capital Indian. A source said it would have been enough to feed 25 or 30 people.
And it’s emerged that Durham Police’s investigation earlier this year didn’t encompass the two witnesses who filmed the gathering being interviewed by officers. Also, Sir Keir’s Met Police bodyguards were apparently present at the Miners’ Hall when the curry and beer were being consumed.
It’s now time for a new, thorough and forensic investigation. The officers from the protection team should be able to give clear evidence.
The people in the curry house need to be interviewed. They are likely to have records of what was served and the time it was ordered. Full statements need to be taken from those who filmed the video.
Durham Police also need to establish a list of attendees at the alleged party. Were they all workers? Or were partners and friends invited? Personally, I find it difficult to believe this group had a curry, a beer and then, after 10pm, went back to work.
Surely it would be possible for the election team to get together for a briefing, carry out electioneering on the street and then disperse. But a new inquiry could establish the facts. On Tuesday, Sir Keir refused to say four times if police had been in touch again about the alleged gathering.
Well, Durham Constabulary should have been in touch with him and Sir Keir should give a full account of what happened.
Sir Keir pushed for tough lockdown restrictions when the pandemic was at its height.
What grieves me is that government laws backed by Labour meant my partner was unable to see her dying grandmother on her birthday.
It was also forbidden for my youngest to have parties on her sixth and seventh birthdays. Everyone up and down the country will have similar memories.
That’s why it’s important politicians must abide by the letter of the law they helped write.
If Durham Police are worried about being exposed politically, the Met Police or another independent force should step in to conduct the investigation.
Our democracy requires both political parties to be treated equally under the law.
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If this matter is simply left to fester, the public may lose trust and be less likely to follow rules.
Without a thorough investigation, many may be left wondering: What exactly is the difference between carrying beers into the Durham Miners’ Hall and wheeling wine into Downing Street?
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