Keir Starmer vows to resign if fined by Durham Police over possible Covid breach

sir Keir Starmer has vowed to resign as Plowing leader if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice by Durham Police for a possible breach of covid rules.

The Labour’s leader’s high-stakes gamble came after he canceled morning commitments – including a keynote address on the Queen’s Speech – in the wake of continuing questions over a beer-and-curry gathering in April 2021.

Putting his political career on the line, Sir Keir, who stressed that he was “absolutely clear” no rules were broken, said that if he is fined by police, he will “do the right thing and step down” as leader of the Labor Party.

Moments after a hastily arranged press conference at the party’s London headquarters, his deputy, Angela Raynerwho was also at the event last spring, said she too would “do the decent thing and step down” if issued with a fixed penalty notice.

After intense deliberations with close allies on Monday morning, Sir Keir told the public: “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the rules must follow them.

“This matters. It matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules apply to them”.

He added: “They deserve politicians who hold themselves to the highest standards. And they deserve politicians who put the country first rather than themselves. They will always, always, get that from me.”

Defending his actions, he said: “The idea that I would then casually break those rules is wrong, and frankly I don’t believe those accusing me believe it themselves. They are just trying to feed cynicism, so the public to believe all politicians are the same.

“I am absolutely clear that no laws were broken. They were followed at all times. I simply had something to eat whilst working late in the evening, as any politician would do days before an election.

Questions remained, however, over whether Sir Keir would stand down if Durham Constabulary suggests he may have broken the rules but does not issue a fine, as he did with former adviser No 10r Dominic Cummings.

In 2020 the force said it had a “general approach” not “to take retrospective action” regarding Covid fines, “since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public”.

Sir Keir first told reporters: “If you’ve made a law you should respect the law and if you’re found to be in breach of it you should step down.”

But pressed further on the scenario, he added: “The penalty for a Covid breach is a fixed penalty notice, that’s a matter of law, and I’ve set out what the position is in relation to that.”

Ms Rayner also stressed: “I’ve always been clear that I was at the event in Durham working in my capacity as deputy leader and that no rules were broken. Eating during a long day’s work was not against the rules.

“We have a prime minister who has been found to have broken the rules, lied about it and then been fined. If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down.”

After days of damaging questions over the April 2021 event, Sir Keir opted for the high-risk strategy after months of calling on Boris Johnson to resign after the prime minister was issued with a fine by the Metropolitan Police over the Partygate scandal.

But he was first forced to pull out of a planned speech at the Institute for Government (IfG) on “meeting the challenges the country faces” ahead of the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament on Tuesday.

The party declined to explain why the appearance was cancelled, other than to say “plans change”. Sir Keir also canceled a planned attendance at a memorial event for the former Conservative cabinet minister James Brokenshire on Monday morning.

A spokesperson for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said Sir Keir had made the “right decision” and stood in contrast to the prime minister, who has refused to resign despite being the first sitting prime minister to be found to have broken the law .

They said the comments showed “integrity, decency and respect to the bereaved”, adding: “At the end of the day the country can’t be led by someone who’s been fined for breaking lockdown rules.

“The pandemic isn’t over, and if, God forbid, a new vaccine-resistant strain should emerge, it’s essential we have a leader with the moral authority to introduce restrictions if needed. If we don’t, lives could be lost as a result.”

Harriet Harman, a former deputy leader of the Labor Party, told Sky News the move by Sir Keir was “in character with the person, he believes in the highest standards in public office”.

“He’s doing it because he believes it is the right thing to do,” she said. Probity in politics matters to him.

Meanwhile, Labor MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Sir Keir “needs to investigate whether people are leaking” Beergate revelations to the media from within the party. It follows a leak last weekend of a timetable for the event to a Sunday newspaper.

Despite initially deciding not to take action when images of the Labor leader consuming beer first appeared, Durham Police announced on Friday it would launch an investigation into a potential breach of Covid laws.

At the time of the Durham gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.

Labor has stressed, however, the event at Durham Miners’ Hall was within the rules, as it was held between work events and staff were campaigning in the Hartlepool by-election.

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