Diane Abbott: Starmer should ‘consider his position’ if fined over ‘Beergate’

Ex-Labour shadow home secretary made comment after Durham police opened inquiry into party leader and lockdown rules

Diane Abbott has said Keir Starmer should “consider his position” if he is fined by police for breaking lockdown rules by having a beer and takeaway with staff during election campaigning last year.

Abbott, who served as the shadow home secretary during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, told LBC: “I don’t think he will – I think this is a lot of hype built up by the Tory press. But if he were to get a fixed penalty notice, he would have to consider his position.

“I’m a loyal supporter of Keir Starmer, I’m just making the common sense point that if he gets a fixed penalty notice he should consider his position.”

A longtime Corbyn loyalist, Abbott, who is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has been largely relegated to the backbenches since Starmer became Labour leader in April 2020.

Starmer said on Saturday that he was confident he did not breach any rules. “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat,” he said. “There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

However, a leaked memo published by the Mail on Sunday indicated the curry enjoyed by Starmer and colleagues in April 2021 was planned in advance on the schedule for the day’s campaigning, and that no further work was listed after the dinner.

A spokesman for Starmer said: “Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.”

Timings for events frequently slip during a campaign and on the day of the curry the takeaway was late, a source told the PA news agency.

The barrister and Covid rules expert Adam Wagner said on Twitter he did not think the memo changed Labour’s defence. “The fact it was pre-arranged with social distancing guidelines makes it more likely to be reasonably necessary not less,” he said.

Allies of Starmer spoke out to defend him on Saturday. The shadow health and social care secretary, Wes Streeting, told the BBC he would not “entertain” the prospect of Starmer resigning over the alleged lockdown rule-breaking.

“I have absolute faith and confidence that Keir Starmer did the right thing all the way along,” he said. “He’s maintained that all the way along. He’s someone who practises what he preaches, and as I say the police have looked at this before and found no case to answer.

“We’re confident that’ll be the case this time. I think the contrast between Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson will be even sharper because I do think it’s ridiculous, actually, after everything that we’ve seen, Boris Johnson is still there and Conservative MPs haven’t removed Boris Johnson.”

When asked whether Starmer would resign if had broken the law, the shadow Welsh secretary, Jo Stevens, told Times Radio: “I think if we get to that situation – which I think is extremely unlikely on the basis that Durham constabulary have already investigated this complaint and found that no rules have been broken – I’m sure Keir will make a statement at that point.”

Starmer has insisted that there was “no party” and “no rules were broken” after footage emerged of him drinking a beer with colleagues at a constituency office in Durham in April 2021 while campaigning for the Hartlepool byelection.

At the time of the gathering, lockdown rules included a ban on indoor mixing between households.

After the conclusion of the local elections on Thursday, Durham constabulary announced it would launch an investigation into whether rules were broken in April 2021 after receiving “significant new information”.

This was a U-turn on an earlier decision regarding the case, which had found no offence had been committed.

Earlier this year Starmer said Johnson “needs to do the decent thing and resign” after the Metropolitan police began investigating alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street.


Jane Clinton

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Police consider interviewing Starmer face to face over Beergate claims
News comes as it emerges Labour is preparing dossier to show team worked late on night in question

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

10, May, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Losing byelection would be ‘curtains’ for Keir Starmer, says Diane Abbott
Labour left wing would back leadership run by Andy Burnham if party loses Batley and Spen, Corbyn ally says

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

19, May, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
Leaked Beergate memo could clear Starmer, lawyer believes
Adam Wagner, a barrister specialising in lockdown rules, says document shows purpose of meal was political, not social

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

08, May, 2022 @6:27 PM

Article image
Diane Abbott urges Starmer to act over racism in Labour party
MP says she received no apologies after racist and sexist remarks made about her were revealed in Forde report

Heather Stewart Political editor

26, Jul, 2022 @5:16 PM

Article image
Abbott denies Starmer privately defied Corbyn over antisemitism
Corbyn ally says suggestions Starmer challenged handling of issue while in shadow cabinet are ‘nonsense’

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

16, Feb, 2023 @10:32 AM

Article image
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner to resign if fined over Beergate claims – UK politics as it happened
Latest updates: Labour leader promises to resign if Durham police fine him; deputy Labour leader also says she will quit if issued with FPN

Andrew Sparrow

09, May, 2022 @5:12 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn gives top job to Diane Abbott in shadow cabinet reshuffle
Labour leader also places Shami Chakrabarti as shadow attorney general and barrister Keir Starmer as shadow Brexit secretary

Rajeev Syal and Jessica Elgot

07, Oct, 2016 @6:10 AM

Article image
Diane Abbott calls on left to back free movement as workers' right
Shadow home secretary distances herself from peers advocating rethink of Labour’s immigration policy, stating restrictions will harm domestic workers, too

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

28, Mar, 2017 @5:01 AM

Article image
Diane Abbott joins Windrush protest march on Whitehall
Shadow home secretary tells crowd that ‘all roads lead back to Theresa May’ regarding Tories’ hostile environment policy

Nicola Slawson

05, May, 2018 @5:53 PM

Article image
PMQs: Keir Starmer presses Boris Johnson over care home deaths
PM accused of not knowing government’s coronavirus advice after clash in Commons

Peter Walker Political correspondent

13, May, 2020 @2:24 PM