LONDON — Labour Party staff were drunk at a controversial curry and beer gathering which is being investigated by police for a possible breach of England’s coronavirus rules back in April 2021, a person familiar with what happened that night told POLITICO’s London Playbook.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer is under mounting pressure over the event he attended in Durham with his deputy Angela Rayner. The gathering — billed by the party as a work-related stop during campaigning — took place while most indoor socializing was illegal under COVID-19 regulations.
The suggestion that people present were drunk casts doubt on whether the event — dubbed “Beergate” by parts of the U.K. media — was reasonably necessary for campaign purposes, as the law required.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.”
However, the person familiar with the event told Playbook some junior staffers present “were p*ssed and obviously weren’t working so I remember thinking: why are they here?”
They said no work was being done during or after the curry ordered in from a local takeaway and therefore that the event “crossed the line” and breached COVID laws.
They added: “It was Friday night after nine o’clock and some people were drinking … Of course it crossed the line.”
The Leader of the Opposition’s Office (LOTO) and the Labour Party did not deny the claim when given multiple opportunities by Playbook.
Mary Foy, the Labour MP whose office the events took place in and whose staff attended, did not respond to a request for comment.
The person said they are willing to speak to Durham Police if they are approached. The police force on Friday announced that it is investigating the gathering over a possible breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Starmer, who has urged Boris Johnson to resign after the U.K. prime minister was was fined for a breach of COVID-19 rules, pulled out of a planned appearance at a Westminster think tank on Monday.
But Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sunday night that Starmer should not have to resign if he is fined over Beergate.
Asked by POLITICO during a visit in New York whether Starmer should resign if he gets fined, Khan said: “No. Unfortunately, the last time I checked Keir Starmer isn’t the prime minister or the chancellor. Why is the British public angry? … The anger is because those who made those rules were breaking them.”
Khan added that the allegations against Starmer were “a million miles away” from the “culture of rule-breaking in Downing Street.”
He added: “Keir Starmer is alleged to, at worst, at the end of a hard-working day having a beer with his curry. Compare and contrast to our PM, who made the rules and has been found to have broken the rules.”