U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he’ll resign if a police investigation into a curry and beer gathering in April 2021 results in a fine — a move designed to put pressure on Boris Johnson.
The British opposition leader is facing sustained questions over an event where he drank beer and ate a takeaway with party activists in Durham — billed by Labour as a work-related gathering — while most indoor socializing was illegal under COVID-19 regulations.
Members of the governing Conservatives had accused Starmer of hypocrisy, after he called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to resign when U.K. police fined them for attending an illicit gathering for Johnson’s birthday. Johnson is accused of attending several other events while England was in lockdown.
In an effort to neutralize those attacks and draw a contrast between himself and the prime minister, Starmer said Monday he would quit as Labour leader if Durham police decided to issue him with a so-called fixed penalty notice, which carries a fine in order to avoid a court appearance.
“I’m absolutely clear that no rules were broken, they were followed at all times,” Starmer said. “But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice, I would, of course, do the right thing and step down.
“This matters, it matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules apply to them,” he added.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader who as also at the event, said she too would resign if issued with a fixed penalty notice.
She said: “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.”
Further pressure was piled on Starmer after POLITICO’s London Playbook reported Monday that people present at the event were drunk, casting doubt on whether the event was reasonably necessary for campaign purposes as the law required.
A 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 done during or after the curry was ordered in from a local takeaway.
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.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said she would also quit if issued with a fixed penalty notice.
“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,” she said. “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.”