Keir Starmer, leader of Britain’s opposition Labor party, will face a police investigation into whether a 2021 campaign rally violated lockdown rules, weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fined for breaking the rules.
“We can confirm that an investigation is now underway into possible breaches of Covid-19 regulations related to this meeting,” Durham Police said in a statement on Friday.
The meeting took place in Durham, Northern England, last April, with a video later showing Starmer drinking beer and eating a takeaway in a campaign office with party colleagues.
Starmer, a barrister and former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, insists the meeting did not violate the rules against indoor gatherings since he went to work.
A Labor Party spokesperson said: “We are of course happy to answer any questions that arise and we remain clear that no rules have been broken.”
Police at the time investigated the event, but concluded that “no criminal offense had been established”.
But it said on Friday that “after receiving important new information in recent days…we can confirm that an investigation is now underway into possible breaches of Covid-19 regulations related to this meeting”.
– ‘Shame mark’ –
The announcement comes a day after local elections, in which Johnson’s party will be punished for its own violation of the rules.
The Prime Minister and his Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were both fined for attending a meeting in Johnson’s office to celebrate his birthday in 2020.
London police are still investigating other possible violations of the law by Johnson, who had previously denied breaking the rules he imposed on everyone else.
When it emerged that Johnson was under police investigation, Starmer called it a “mark of shame” and demanded the prime minister’s resignation.
“Even now, he is hiding behind a police investigation into crime in his home and office,” Starmer told MPs in January.
“He cheerfully treats what should be a mark of shame as a welcome shield, but the British public are no fools, they have never believed a word of it, they think the Prime Minister should do the decent thing and resign.
“Of course he won’t, because he is a man without shame and just like he has done all his life, he has damaged everything and everyone around him along the way,” said the Labor leader.
Labor had to correct the parliamentary record last week after initially saying Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was not at the meeting.
Starmer says he was shooting Zoom videos and broke for food, adding that no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged crime and his hotel was not serving food.
“If you didn’t get takeaway, our team didn’t eat that night,” he said.
Conservative MP Richard Holden urged Durham Police to investigate in the wake of new information, saying on Friday they were “doing just the right thing”.
“It is vital that the man who wants to become prime minister is held to the same standard as the prime minister and everyone else,” he said.
Johnson’s wife Carrie was also among those fined for violating Covid laws.
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