Labour’s Lisa Nandy has defended ‘Mr Rules’ Sir Keir Starmer and said it was ‘not illegal to eat’ after the latest allegations of the party leader’s alleged breach of COVID rules.
Sir Keir said he was working and had stopped to eat when he was filmed having a beer in a room in Durham in April last year – at a time when rules prohibited households from mix indoors outside of work.
Durham Police are currently investigating the event and a leaked memo obtained by the Mail of Sunday seems to shed new light over what happened – but Ms Nandy accused the Tories of trying to ‘throw mud’.
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The Labor leader, who is a former director of public prosecutions, is coming under pressure over so-called beergate claims because he himself was fiercely critical of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s breach of lockdown.
But Ms Nandy told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘It is frankly absurd for Tories to claim that this in any way amounts to a prime minister who was under police investigation for 12 separate gatherings that included karaoke nights, bring your own bottle parties, pub quizzes, suitcases full of wine smuggled through the back door.
“The Prime Minister lied about it, he denied they happened, denied he was there. He told the truth and he laughed it off.”
Ms Nandy said it couldn’t be equated with the Labor leader’s ‘work visit with planned breaks for eating’.
“It wasn’t illegal to eat,” she said.
Ms Nandy declined to say whether Sir Keir should resign if police find he broke the rules.
She said it “gives legitimacy to something that is completely and utterly absurd”.
“I’m absolutely confident that no rules were broken, not least because it was investigated the last time the Tories tried to throw mud at us and Keir Starmer turned out completely clear,” she said.
“He’s a guy who self-isolated six times during the pandemic.
“I don’t know a single other person who has done this.
“He’s Mr Rules, he doesn’t break the rules.
“He was the Director of Public Prosecutions, not someone who breaks the rules when it suits him, unlike the Prime Minister.”
But Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, told Sky News: ‘It’s the double standard that drives people crazy.
The comments came after the memo obtained by the Mail on Sunday said the dinner was put on the day’s schedule in April 2021 during Hartlepool’s local elections and by-election campaign.
The document said there would be a “dinner at Miners Hall” with Durham City MP Mary Foy from 8.40pm to 10pm.
A note said a member of staff from Sir Keir’s office was to arrange a take-out at the Spice Lounge.
The only business listed after dinner was for Sir Keir to walk back to his hotel – he has previously claimed he ‘stopped to eat’ and continued to work after the meal, claiming ‘the idea that no one working at 10 p.m. is absurd”.
Ms Nandy told Sky News the note ‘demonstrates exactly what happened, it is exactly what Keir Starmer said’.
On Saturday, Diane Abbott became the first Labor MP to say publicly that Sir Keir may have to resign if he is fined over the incident.
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