Following a police investigation, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner, were cleared of breaching lockdown rules during a visit to Durham last year.

Both have vowed to resign if they are found to have broken the rules during a trip to the town in April 2021 ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.

None of those present at the event, which was dubbed “Beergate”, were fined.

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This is in stark contrast to the 126 reports of fixed fines by the Metropolitan Police for breaking the rules in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Boris Johnson, his wife Kerry Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined for attending the Prime Minister’s birthday party in June 2020, when indoor mingling was banned.

Responding on Twitter to the outcome of the Durham police investigation, Sir Keir said: “I have always said that no rules were broken when I was at Durham.

“The police have completed the investigation and agreed: there is no case to answer.

“For me, it’s always been a matter of principle. Honesty and integrity matter. You’ll always get that from me.”

Mr Rayner wrote in a post: “We have always made it clear that no rules were broken at Durham.

“The police have finished their investigation and have agreed saying there is no case to answer.

“In politics, honesty matters. The contrast with the behavior of this disgraced Prime Minister could not be more stark.”

Sir Keir’s big gamble is paying off

The police investigation hanging over the Labor leader’s head is over: Sir Keir Starmer has been cleared by Durham Police.

Beer and curry in Hartlepool was no breach of lockdown and Sir Keir’s big risk paid off.

A week ago, a senior Tory suggested Boris Johnson could benefit from the chaos in Labor if Sir Keir is fined by calling an early election.

Labor is now talking about a vote of no confidence after Mr Johnson’s government collapsed.

What a difference a week makes.

Labor MPs say the decision was welcomed and expected, but there was nervousness in the party.

Many lamented the irony that Partygate could have unseated the Labor leader, not Mr Johnson, before it happened.

One ally was almost in tears talking to me about how long they had been waiting for a decision from Durham Police.

Today, the wait is over, Sir Keir and Angela Rayner have been rescued, and any fledgling leadership ambitions thwarted for the time being.

With Mr Johnson on his way out, Sir Keir could benefit from Tory disarray and the prospect of a summer two-leadership search has been avoided.

Sir Keir was caught on video drinking a bottle of beer for a takeaway with colleagues in Durham MP Mary Foy’s office.

It later emerged that Ms Rayner was also at the meeting.

At the time, non-essential retail and outdoor spaces, including pub gardens, were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.

Durham Police initially investigated and found no evidence of foul play, but reopened after the Tory MP for North West Durham, Richard Holden, intervened in April.

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“Didn’t lose a sleepless night over it”

In a statement, the force said: “Following significant new information, Durham Police have launched an investigation into a gathering at Miners Hall in Redhills, Durham on 30 April 2021. This investigation is now complete.

“A significant amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained that identified the 17 participants and their activities during this meeting.

“After applying the evidentiary full code test, it was concluded that there was no reason for liability for breach of the rules due to the application of the exception, namely reasonably necessary work.

“Accordingly, Durham Police will not be issuing any fixed penalties in relation to the gathering and no further action will be taken.

“The investigation was thorough, detailed and proportionate.”

A Tory source said: “People in Durham will be surprised to learn they have been allowed to stand and drink inside after working with people outside their home under the COVID restrictions.

“Other forces obviously took a different view.

“Certainly, if Keir Starmer held himself to the standards he demands of others, he would have resigned two months ago.”

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Starmer: ‘I would do the right thing’

Meanwhile, Ms Foy said she was “delighted” with the police findings after the “pressure of the last few months”.

She said: “I would like to thank the officers for their professionalism and diligence during the investigation.

“However, it is unfortunate that the desire of some Conservative politicians to score political points has resulted in Durham Police spending too much time on a case that has already been investigated, particularly when their resources are already under significant pressure.”

Sir Keir promised to do the “right thing” and refuse when fined in relation to the congregation.

The move was seen as a huge gamble and Sir Keir put his future in the hands of Durham Police after the announcement officers would resume their investigation into the incident where he drank beer and ate curry.

The Labor leader has consistently denied the meeting was against the rules, claiming he and those present worked, pausing to eat during the break and then returning to their duties.

Labor tried to contrast Sir Keir’s actions with Boris Johnson’s refusal to step down as Prime Minister fined by the Met Police at a meeting at No. 10 in June 2020 to celebrate his 56th birthday.

The party expressed confidence that its leader will be releasedSources said they would provide officers with evidence that the meeting in Durham was a work event.

https://news.sky.com/story/sir-keir-starmer-cleared-by-durham-police-over-beergate-after-vowing-to-resign-if-he-received-fine-12609812

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