Keir Starmer Urged to ‘Man Up’ and Apologise Instead of ‘Weaseling Out’ of Drinks in Lockdown Claims
08:28 GMT 17.01.2022 (Updated: 15:17 GMT 28.05.2023)
© JESSICA TAYLORBritain's PM Johnson addresses lawmakers about Afghanistan
© JESSICA TAYLOR
The leader of the UK Labour Party, Keir Starmer – one of the most vocal critics of under-fire Boris Johnson amid the so-called “partygate” row – earlier denied breaching COVID-19 rules in the wake of a photograph showing him drinking a beer with staff in a constituency office last year.
UK Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of hypocrisy and urged by Tory MPs to apologise after being pictured drinking beer with colleagues during COVID-19 lockdown.
Footage of Starmer, showing him with a bottle of beer in one hand and talking to a woman believed to be Labour MP Mary Foy in her constituency office in Durham, is dated 30 April 2021. At least five other people appear to be inside the room in the picture, taken several days before the Hartlepool by-election and published in the Daily Mail first in spring last year.
And what about @Keir_Starmer ! He was photographed with beer bottle in hand with labour activists indoors not in garden lady year about same time as this alledged booze incident! pic.twitter.com/pfyLmPta21— me 🇬🇧🏳️🌈 🇫🇴🍀🇯🇴🇮🇹 (@harbord_st) January 12, 2022
At the time, the country was in step two of the road map out of the third lockdown, with indoor mixing between different households not allowed except for work.
Keir Starmer has led a barrage of attacks castigating Prime Minister Boris Johnson over an outdoor Downing Street gathering in 2020 that is currently part of the “partygate” probe.
“Instead of trying to weasel his way out of this, accusing the Prime Minister of making hopeless excuses, it now appears he is in the same boat… It is now for Keir Starmer to 'man up' and show he is prepared to apologise,” former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith was cited as saying by the Daily Mail.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant added that if the PM could apologise for a “secure” Downing Street garden event, it was “a bit graceless of Keir Starmer not to profusely apologise for an event in an office that was not guarded and could have been a real Covid spreader”.
16 January 2022, 09:55 GMT
The opposition leader was slammed for hypocrisy by Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen, who said:
“People in glass houses shouldn't throw too many stones. His hypocrisy is worse than the Prime Minister's, because he is attacking the Prime Minister for doing what he's done himself. People can judge for themselves whether or not he broke the rules.”
An ally of the embattled Boris Johnson was also cited as saying:
“Boris has apologised, so why won't Starmer? He has called for the PM to resign, which is a very big statement from the Leader of the Opposition, especially one who is a lawyer. But what's the difference between what he did and what Boris did?”
‘No Breach of Rules, No Comparison’
As he appeared on the BBC's Sunday Morning show, Starmer himself denied breaching any lockdown rules during what he claimed was a work meeting in the run-up to last year's local elections.
“… I was in a constituency office just days before the election. We were very busy, we were working in the office and we stopped for something to eat. And then we carried on working. That is the long and the short of it. No party, no breach of the rules and absolutely no comparison with the Prime Minister,” stated Starmer.
When further pressed whether drinking of beer was “reasonably necessary for work purposes”, the Labour leader said:
“We'd stopped to eat a takeaway whilst we were working in the office and then we carried on.”
As the host of the show queried why a photograph of Boris Johnson attending a “work event” with wine and cheese in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 was different, the opposition leader quipped that people would “look at the photos and make their own minds up”.
Keir Starmer is a complete hypocrite. What he did was far worse, as he was inside. Cheese and wine is unacceptable at a work meeting, but takeaway and beers is ok if Labour do it. pic.twitter.com/XxO3ATEojc— Kevin Edger (@KEdge23) January 16, 2022
Starmer proceeded to double down on his insistence that the “line is drawn in the rules and the Prime Minister broke the rules”.
“The [Prime Minister's] party happened because an invitation was sent to a hundred people saying, 'let's have some socially distanced drinks in the garden and bring your own booze'. There is simply no comparison,” said Keir Starmer.
A spokesman for the Labour leader insisted that Keir Starmer had nothing to apologise for, as he had broken no rules.
“Keir follows the rules at all times. He's a former Chief Prosecutor – honesty and decency are non-negotiable for him,” added the spokesperson.
Boris Johnson had for the first time admitted he attended a drinks party at No 10 during the first lockdown, offering a "heartfelt apology" during PMQs on 12 January, but saying he had believed it to be a “work event” at the time.
Nevertheless, Labour leader Keir Starmer urged the PM to resign, denouncing him as a "pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road".
15 January 2022, 15:26 GMT
Witnesses cited by UK media have claimed that both the PM and his wife were among about 30 people at the event in May 2020 when social mixing between households was limited to two people, who could only meet outdoors and with social distancing of at least 2 metres.
Boris Johnson insisted that people await the outcome of an inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray into alleged COVID-19 law-breaching in Downing Street before any statements on the matter are made.
The PM "is understood to have shared what he knows" with Gray over the allegations, according to The Daily Telegraph, with the report on the investigation anticipated in a week’s time.