Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to offer his resignation if he is given a fixed fine for breaking COVID rules.
Sir Keir came under pressure at an event in Durham in April 2021 with party colleagues when he was filmed having a drink and a take-out curry was ordered.
Durham Police are currently investigating the so-called ‘beergate’ but the Labor leader said the critics were ‘simply trying to fuel cynicism to lead the public to believe that all politicians are the same’.
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Sir Keir, who strongly criticized Boris Johnson’s rule-breaking in Downing Street, said it was ‘absolutely clear that no law had been broken’ in his case.
But he added: ‘If the police decide to issue me a fixed penalty notice, of course I would do the right thing and resign.’
Pressed on whether he would resign if it was determined there had been a breach of the rules but was not issued again, Sir Keir said he had not broken the rules and added: “The penalty for a COVID breach is a Fixed Penalty Notice, it’s a matter of law, and I’ve explained what the position is in relation to that.”
Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner, who was also present at the event, also said no rules were broken and similarly promised she would resign if fined.
At the time of the Durham event, COVID rules prohibited the mixing of households indoors, outside of work.
Over the weekend, a leaked memo obtained by the Mail on Sunday revealed the meal was pre-plannedcontrary to Labour’s earlier claim that it was a decision taken at night because “food served nowhere”.
Sir Keir pulled out of a planned think tank event on Monday amid mounting pressure.
But at a hastily arranged press conference later in the day, the Labor leader agreed to face TV reporters to answer growing questions about how he might react if he were recognized guilty of breaking the law.
In a statement, he sought to distinguish his position from that of Boris Johnson, who has already received a fixed penalty notice after a Met Police investigation into alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020 and 2021.
This investigation, in which more than 50 fines have already been imposed, is continuing.
Sir Keir said: “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them.
“I believe politicians who undermine this principle undermine trust in politics, undermine democracy, undermine Britain.
“I am absolutely clear that no laws were broken – they were obeyed at all times.
“I just ate something while working late into the evening, like any politician would a few days before an election.”
Education Minister Michelle Donelan told Sky News on Monday that if Sir Keir was fined it was up to him whether he should resign.
But she added: “What my constituents are saying is that this whole thing smacks of pure hypocrisy.
“He must search for his soul after making it a top priority over the past few months at the expense of key issues like the rising cost of living.”
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