Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner cleared of breaking lockdown rules

Labour leadership duo had promised to quit their roles if found to have broken rules

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had promised to quit if found to have broken lockdown rules. Getty
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Britain's opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has been cleared of breaking lockdown rules by having a beer and curry with colleagues on a trip to Durham, rescuing his political career after he promised to quit if he was fined.

Police said neither Sir Keir nor his Labour Party deputy Angela Rayner had been penalised after an investigation into their campaign trip in April 2021, when Britain was under partial coronavirus restrictions.

"I’ve always said no rules were broken when I was in Durham," Sir Keir said as he celebrated the verdict. "Honesty and integrity matter. You will always get that from me."

The Durham inquiry had cast a shadow over Sir Keir's leadership even as a far more extensive web of scandal engulfed Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culminated in his resignation on Thursday after a mutiny from his own ministers.

He said: “The contrast between the Tory party, which is tearing itself apart with a cast list of wannabe leaders, they’ve all propped up this Prime Minister for months and months and months knowing he’s unfit for office.

“Contrast that to the Labour Party: We’re united, we want to press on with a plan for Britain, and the change we want is more fundamental than a change at the top of the Conservative Party.

As evidence mounted of rule-breaking at Mr Johnson's office, some of his supporters sought to turn the tables by accusing Sir Keir of a breach by drinking a beer and takeaway curry in an MP's offices, in what became known as "beergate".

England was not under a complete lockdown at the time but indoor social gatherings were banned and police announced an investigation in May.

Labour had maintained that the meal was a necessary part of a work event, but Sir Keir raised the stakes by saying he would set an example and resign if he was reprimanded by police, looking to draw a contrast with Mr Johnson, who had initially soldiered on after similarly being accused and later fined.

Sir Keir's gamble paid off when Durham police said on Friday that there was "no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations ... due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work".

"Accordingly, Durham Constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken," a statement said.

Ms Rayner said: "“We’ve always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham. The police have completed their investigation and agreed, saying that there is no case to answer.

“Integrity matters in politics. The contrast with the behaviour of this disgraced prime minister couldn’t be clearer.”

Updated: July 08, 2022, 1:30 PM