Were Keir Starmer police at Beergate Hall?

Were Keir Starmer police at Beergate Hall? Photo hints Labour leader’s protection detail holds key to riddle

  • Keir faced more questions over ‘Beergate’ last night and this morning
  • He was seen drinking in the office of an MP while indoor socialising was banned
  • There are questions over whether he was joined by personal protection officers
  • An unfamiliar black Land Rover was pictured outside and may have been a personal protection vehicle 

Keir Starmer faced yet more questions over ‘Beergate’ last night after it emerged his own police bodyguards may have witnessed the alleged lockdown breach.

Students who filmed the Labour leader drinking in the office of one of his MPs while indoor socialising was banned also photographed an unfamiliar black Land Rover Discovery parked outside.

If it was one of the official police protection vehicles issued to Sir Keir in his role as a senior politician, it would raise the prospect that officers guarding him can help definitively solve the questions which continue to swirl around the night’s events.

One of the students who filmed the gathering at Durham Miners Hall on April 30 last year said: ‘We had never seen a black Land Rover parked there before, it really stuck out. We took a picture of it because we were convinced it was the car in which he had been driven there.’

Last night a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on protection matters.’ Labour did not respond to requests for comment.

Former Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was previously forced to defend officers on duty in Whitehall as questions were raised on how potentially lockdown-breaching gatherings were able to take place at a site with a heavy police presence.

Speaking in February, she said the officers were there to provide ‘protective security’ but refused to be drawn on ‘anything they may have seen or heard’. 

The Leader of the Opposition is one of a small number of senior politicians given round-the-clock protection by police.

Students who filmed the Labour leader drinking in the office of one of his MPs while indoor socialising was banned also photographed an unfamiliar black Land Rover Discovery parked outside

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is seen outside BBC as he does morning media round. Keir Starmer on morning media round, BBC, London, England, United Kingdom – 03 May 2022

Students filmed the Labour leader drinking in the office of one of his MPs while indoor socialising was banned

Specialist officers and patrol cars are provided by a special committee of the Metropolitan Police which offers the same protection to senior royals.

Officers would know everywhere the ‘principal’ is going during a visit and have a rough idea of timings, a source said last night.

There are typically two cars from a pool of vehicles, one for the VIP with a driver who is usually a police officer, plus a backup vehicle containing further officers. All are typically armed.

It came after police in Durham last night failed to back up Labour claims that officers had not contacted Sir Keir about claims of a beer-swigging lockdown breach.

Even before the suggestion that the Labour leader’s bodyguards were present that night, the force has been under intense pressure to rethink its decision not to investigate whether the Labour leader broke the rules.

But almost nine hours after Sir Keir gave an interview to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – during which he repeatedly failed to deny whether police had been in touch with him or his office over ‘Beergate’ – it finally confirmed it was making no statement to clear up the confusion.

Durham Constabulary also said there was no update on its announcement last week that officers were going to ‘consider’ Conservative MP Richard Holden’s demand that it investigated the much-scrutinised events of that night.


BBC Radio 4 Today, 8.22am 

Martha Kearney (MK): Has there been any contact with you or your office from Durham Police since Conservative MPs called for inquiries to be re-opened?

 Sir Keir Starmer (KS): We were working in the office. It was just before elections. We were busy. We’d paused for food. No party. No rules were broken. That is the long and the short of it. All that’s happened in the last week is that, with local elections on the horizon, local Conservative MPs have decided to chuck mud.

MK: I note you haven’t answered my question. Has there been any contact with you or the office in recent weeks? 

KS: The police looked at this months ago and came to a clear conclusion that no rules were broken. And that’s because no rules were broken. 

MK: Not quite what I asked… I just wondered whether they’d been back in touch since local MPs have been raising questions about it? 

KS: Well look, they’ve already concluded their investigation. No rules were broken and this is simply being whipped up as mudslinging by the Tories. 

MK: But you must remember if the police had rung up your office? 

KS: If the Conservative Party put as much effort into answering the question ‘how are you going to help people with energy bills?’ as they’re putting into this mudslinging, they’d actually do a service for millions of people who are really worried about their energy bills. 

MK: But by not answering questions like mine aren’t you adding to the clouds of doubt around this? 

KS: Well there’s just… we were working, we stopped for food, no party, no rules were broken. I don’t know what I can add to that. 

Times Radio, 8:42am 

Lucy Fisher (LF): Would you welcome Durham Constabulary re-examining [the affair] just to clear up whether any rules were broken or not?

KS: There weren’t any rules broken, the police have already looked at it. And it’s pretty obvious with two days before the election what’s going on here, which is mudslinging by the Conservatives because they’ve got nothing to say on the issue that really matters, which is the cost of living crisis. If they put as much energy into answering the plea of millions of people for help with their bills as they are into slinging mud, actually that would be to the great benefit of millions of people who are really, really tossing and turning in their beds, worrying about their bills. 

LF: Durham Constabulary has been found to have given out fewer fixed penalty notices than the Met. So wouldn’t you welcome them just looking at it again, just to clear up any confusion about what’s happened? 

KS: No rules were broken, no party, nothing to add. 

BBC Breakfast, 8.48am 

Sally Nugent (SN): Surely, if Boris Johnson and people who attended parties in Downing Street have been questioned, you should also be questioned about that evening? 

KS: We were working in the office. We paused and stopped for food. There was no party. There was no breach of the rules. The police looked at it months ago and determined there was no breach of the rules. That is the long and the short of it. Everything else that’s happened in the last week is mud-slinging by the Conservative Party, who know there’s an election in two days’ time, have got absolutely nothing to say on the cost-ofliving crisis and therefore are spraying as much mud as they possibly can.

SN: Have the police been in touch about what happened on that night? 

KS: Well the police looked into this months ago and came to their conclusion. All that’s happened since then is Conservative MPs have been trying to whip it up and throw mud, that is all that’s happened, there’s no change in the situation. 

SN: And if they got back in touch would you co-operate? 

KS: There’s nothing… you know… we stopped, we didn’t break the rules, the police looked at it months ago, the rest of it is pure politics from the Conservative party.

The holes in his story get bigger by the day. Time to come clean

By Stephen Pollard for the Daily Mail

When I joined the Labour Party in 1987, I saw it as a bulwark for truth and decency. It was the era of the notorious Section 28, which banned the supposed ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities, a Conservative policy that I regarded as bigoted and wrong.

I had my differences with Labour over the years and resigned my membership in 2010. When the extreme Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn became leader five years later, I did everything in my power to defeat the party. More recently, I have been relieved to see Labour take steps to return to sanity under Keir Starmer.

And I have always assumed that as a former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir would be upstanding and honest – two vital qualities for a leader – and that Labour would be the same under his leadership.

But my faith in his honesty has taken a severe, possibly fatal, dent over his refusal to be open and transparent about the meal he enjoyed with colleagues in Durham last April.

I cannot reconcile what we know about the evening, and his refusal to answer basic questions about that night, with his claim that he has done nothing wrong.

Indeed, as I listened to him being interviewed on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme, his failure to address the questions he was asked led to me to wonder if, as the former chief prosecutor, he had at the back of his mind the police caution given to anyone who is arrested: ‘You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth attends a Service of Thanksgiving to mark the 73rd Anniversary of the NHS in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England, UK on Monday 5 July, 2021

Interviewer Martha Kearney asked a basic question about what is now known as ‘Beergate’ – the controversy over the allegation that he and his deputy leader, Angela Rayner, broke lockdown rules at a campaign event in Durham last year.

‘Has there been any contact with you or your office from Durham police, since Conservative MPs called for inquiries to be reopened?’ Miss Kearney demanded. It was a simple question that could and should have been answered with a straight yes or no. But at no point has Sir Keir been open or transparent about what actually happened that night.

Despite being asked the question repeatedly, he refused even to acknowledge it, let alone to answer – instead offering the irrelevant response that the police had already investigated the incident and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Yes, we know that. The point now is that new evidence has since been unearthed by the Daily Mail. And the police have subsequently been asked to look again at whether there was indeed a breach of the law.

Yet Sir Keir is unwilling even to comment on whether the police have contacted him.

The natural reaction to his refusal to give a straight answer is to suspect he is hiding something. From the very start of this, Sir Keir and the Labour Party have behaved as if they take everyone else for idiots, deliberately obfuscating over what actually happened, refusing to answer direct questions or to give a full account. Worse than that, they misled everybody about the presence of Mrs Rayner, denying she was present until they were caught out.

Sir Keir says it was a ‘mistake’ – as if the presence of the party’s deputy leader was something everyone there on the night simply forgot about.

‘I don’t think anybody would seriously say Keir Starmer’s team would lie to the media about this,’ he insists.

It is risible – as if no one would dream that a politician and his staff would ever say something that wasn’t true.

When evidence first emerged of the Downing Street parties, Boris Johnson made things infinitely worse for himself by appearing not to give the full story straight away.

The drip-drip-drip of information allowed his enemies to gun for him. Sir Keir’s response was to call his opposite number a liar and demand his resignation: ‘I think the Prime Minister broke the law, I think he then lied about what had happened.’

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Sir Keir’s accusation of lying should be directed straight back at him. So many questions are being left deliberately unanswered that the only rational response is that he and his team are trying to hide what happened.

Here is what we know for certain. In April 2021, the Tier 2 restrictions in Durham stated: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.’

We know that Sir Keir and Mrs Rayner drank beer and ate a meal indoors with people not from their respective household or support bubbles. Sir Keir says that this was fine, because the rules had an exemption for gatherings ‘reasonably necessary for the purposes of campaigning in an election’.

The video of him downing a beer was taken after 10pm. Sir

Keir says he went back to work after the beer and his meal. Really?

He is seriously telling us that everyone in the room had a takeaway and a drink late at night after a long day and then they all decided the best thing to do was start working again?

It’s not only implausible – there is not a shred of evidence to show any work was done after they had eaten. If it’s true, why won’t he tell us what work he did when he resumed work after the meal – or when he finally left to go back to his hotel? Was everyone else working when he started work again, or were they eating and drinking while he worked? Who else, exactly, was there?

Instead of answers to these crucial questions, Sir Keir offers only silence.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Sir Keir’s accusation of lying should be directed straight back at him

But the holes in his story get bigger by the day. Sir Keir also says he had no choice but to eat with his colleagues because he couldn’t get a meal at the hotel he was staying in.

The Mail has shown this is nonsense – the hotel made a point of offering room service for law-abiding guests who were following the rules by eating alone in their room. Sir Keir could remove all doubt about the truth of his story if he gave a full account of what happened backed up by evidence. In the absence of such evidence, however, it looks to be no more and no less than a social meal and a drink with colleagues after work – and so not remotely ‘necessary’. In other words, illegal under the Tier 2 rules.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was fined for turning up to a scheduled work meeting in the Cabinet room to find that a gathering was taking place, and not walking out. For that, Labour demanded his resignation. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Sir Keir plainly thinks he can keep saying nothing and the fuss will die down. But the one thing voters cannot stomach is a politician who lies – so Sir Keir needs to come clean. It is difficult to imagine why he would let this story fester if he really has done nothing wrong and can prove it by answering questions, so it may well be he is covering up his own lawbreaking.

If that is the case then – on his own merciless standards – surely he must resign.

Or does he believe that the rules don’t apply to him?

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