An operational note drawn up ahead of Sir Keir’s notorious visit to Durham, where he was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with activists, reveals the gathering had been planned in advance.
The bombshell document, marked ‘private and confidential’, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.
After the entry recording the ‘dinner in Miners Hall’ – which includes a note to ‘arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’, a local curry house – the document simply says: ‘End of visit.’
Keir Starmer has been plunged into a full-scale leadership crisis after The Mail on Sunday obtained a secret Labour Party document which appears to shatter his version of events over ‘Beergate’
An operational note drawn up ahead of Sir Keir’s notorious visit to Durham (above), where he was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with activists, reveals the gathering had been planned in advance. The bombshell document, marked ‘private and confidential’, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries
The dramatic revelation follows the announcement by Durham Constabulary on Friday that it was opening a fresh investigation into the event on April 30 last year, which took place when indoor socialising was illegal.
The inquiry comes after a series of revelations in the Daily Mail.
The memo – which was passed to this newspaper by a whistleblower – also further undermines Labour’s claims that it made ‘an honest mistake’ when it denied that Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was at the event: it lists ‘AR’ alongside ‘KS’ as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.
The Labour leader – who is also under pressure from party members over his failure to make a significant UK-wide breakthrough in last week’s local elections – is facing accusations of hypocrisy, having called for Boris Johnson’s resignation in January when Scotland Yard launched its inquiry into claims of No 10 lockdown-breaking.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said last night: ‘Being investigated or receiving a fixed-penalty notice is not a resigning matter for anyone at all – unless of course you’ve daily argued the case that it is just that and repeatedly called for the resignation of others. He’s bang to rights and has no choice but to resign thanks to his own sanctimonious hypocrisy.’
The Labour leader – who is also under pressure from party members over his failure to make a significant UK-wide breakthrough in last week’s local elections – is facing accusations of hypocrisy, having called for Boris Johnson’s resignation in January when Scotland Yard launched its inquiry into claims of No 10 lockdown-breaking
Labour has tried to draw a distinction between ‘Beergate’ and ‘Partygate’ on the grounds that Sir Keir’s event was not premeditated: when Sir Keir’s transport spokeswoman Louise Haigh was asked by the BBC’s Fiona Bruce on Thursday how the beer and curry evening was different to a gathering in Downing Street, she said: ‘There was a big difference… he [Keir] broke to eat, and then carried on working afterwards.
‘The various parties in Downing Street were pre-arranged, social events.’
But the note – a forward-planning logistics document which is referred to as an ‘op note’ – makes clear the beer and curry night had been planned in advance.
The note says that after a day’s campaigning in Hartlepool, Sir Keir’s team were due to arrive at the Radisson Blu hotel in Durham at 6.31pm, leaving by 7pm to walk to the Miners Hall.
After recording clips for the media, the note says a 1hr 20mins slot was set aside for ‘dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy’, the local Durham MP. A side note reads: ‘YS to arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’. YS is the acronym for a member of Sir Keir’s private office.
The Spice Lounge curry house was closed at the time, with callers being referred to the nearby Capital Indian restaurant. Last week, the Daily Mail spoke to one of the restaurant’s delivery drivers, who said he had dropped off a ‘big’ order of food for at least 15 people, including four bags of curries, rice and naan bread.
Sir Keir has insisted the curries were eaten during a break in work. When asked whether he had returned to work after the beer, the Labour leader said: ‘Yes. And the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd.’
But the memo sets out that at the end of the dinner, at 10pm, he should ‘walk from Miners Hall to Radisson Blu’. Further work is not mentioned.
Sir Keir has insisted the curries were eaten during a break in work. When asked whether he had returned to work after the beer, the Labour leader said: ‘Yes. And the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd.’ But the memo sets out that at the end of the dinner, at 10pm, he should ‘walk from Miners Hall to Radisson Blu’. Further work is not mentioned
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The reaction was instant. ‘Wowser,’ Nigel Adams MP, a Cabinet Office Minister, wrote on Twitter, adding that Keir Starmer would ‘need some fancy lawyer dance moves to explain this one away’.
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly added: ‘Starmer claimed it was an impromptu curry. Hypocrisy and dishonesty in equal measure.’
Richard Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, said the leaked memo ‘blows apart what Sir Keir Starmer has been saying all the way through’.
However you read it, The Mail on Sunday is Britain’s No1 newspaper for fearlessly breaking the biggest stories.
When he was quizzed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme last week, Sir Keir said: ‘At some point, this was in the evening, everybody’s hungry and then that takeaway was ordered. It was then delivered into the kitchen.
‘Restaurants and pubs were closed, so takeaways were really the only way you could eat. So this was brought in and at various points people went through the kitchen, got a plate, had some food to eat and got on with their work.’
However, The Mail on Sunday has established that the Radisson Blu was serving food when Sir Keir and his party checked in at 6.31pm and continued to do so until 9pm.
At the time, lockdown laws allowed staff to meet indoors if doing so was ‘reasonably necessary for work’, but ‘there should not be any sharing of food and drink by staff who do not share a household. Minimise self-serving options for food and drink’.
In addition, Government guidance put in place for the following month’s local elections stated: ‘You should not meet with other campaigners indoors. Only rarely will two people be required indoors at the same location to manage bulk delivery handling.
‘You should keep these interactions to a minimum to reduce contact and follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times…’
The document also refers to four members of the ‘MPL’ – Met Police Liaison – who were included in the trip, suggesting they are likely to have information useful to the investigation.
Also included on the op note is the line ‘Covid Alert Level: National Lockdown’, and ‘important note: please maintain social distancing of 2m and wear face coverings whilst indoors at all time’.
The leaked document makes clear that Ms Rayner was to play a central role in the day’s events.
The party has admitted to not telling the truth about Ms Rayner’s presence.
When the Mail asked the party on January 14 whether she had taken part in the event, it said: ‘Angela wasn’t there.’ But when confronted last month with video evidence, Labour admitted: ‘Angela was present’, and said previous denials had been ‘an honest mistake’.
A Labour spokesman said: ‘Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.’
A party source added: ‘During a fast-moving campaign, the op note doesn’t always keep up with events so it would be wrong to assume that activities occurred at the times originally planned. For example, it’s been documented that the takeaway was late.’
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (above) said last night: ‘Being investigated or receiving a fixed-penalty notice is not a resigning matter for anyone at all – unless of course you’ve daily argued the case that it is just that and repeatedly called for the resignation of others. He’s bang to rights and has no choice but to resign thanks to his own sanctimonious hypocrisy’
Labour heavyweights Wes Streeting and Rachel Reeves are accused of sizing up leadership bids amid claims Keir Starmer will be in ‘dead trouble’ if he is fined over Beergate
By ANNA MIKHAILOVA and BRENDAN CARLIN For The Mail On Sunday
Labour heavyweights Rachel Reeves and Wes Streeting were last night accused of sizing up leadership bids – amid claims from senior Labour sources that Sir Keir Starmer will be in ‘dead trouble’ if he is fined over Beergate.
The two shadow Cabinet ministers have been quietly tapping up donors and drumming up support for a potential tilt at the top, party insiders said last night.
In the past year alone, Shadow Chancellor Ms Reeves has declared nearly £200,000 in donations on her Register of Interests, while Shadow Health Secretary Mr Streeting has brought in £169,000, analysis by The Mail on Sunday has shown.
Wes Streeting (pictured outside BBC HQ in February) reportedly harbours leader ambitions
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who is also expected to throw her hat into the ring, has declared £57,541 in donations over the same period. The claims come amid mounting concern that Sir Keir’s leadership will be doomed if Durham Police fine him over the alleged Beergate flouting of Covid lockdown rules last year.
To make matters worse for Sir Keir, some MPs are privately giving him until September to turn things around after failing to make real progress in the North and Midlands in last week’s local elections.
However, there are also calls from Starmer loyalists that it is time for Sir Keir to go ‘full Blair’ and kick out MPs still loyal to former leader Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-Left agenda.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has raised nearly £200,000 in donations over the past year
One senior party figure even raised hopes that David Miliband would now return to frontline UK politics to bolster Sir Keir’s Blairite drive for power.
The beleaguered Labour leader has defiantly insisted that no rules were broken at the now notorious event last year inside the office of City of Durham MP Mary Foy at the Durham Miners’ Hall. But privately, even some senior Labour colleagues are worried by claims of hypocrisy against Sir Keir, given how he had repeatedly demanded Boris Johnson’s head over Covid party breaches at No 10.
One former shadow Cabinet member said: ‘The boys in blue in Durham may well catch him and he’s going to be in dead trouble if he’s fined.
‘Keir has made this a defining Keir test – whether or not Rishi Sunak and Boris told the truth. He didn’t need to make the point week after week after week. Our leadership has spent too much time on it.’
Starmer loyalists have urged the Labour leader to go ‘full Blair’ and boot out leader rivals
Another Labour MP said: ‘By the autumn, a decision will have to be made. Someone new will need 15 to 18 months to bed in. We haven’t cut through as much as we need to do. We’re probably two years away from a General Election and there’s a massive amount of work to be done.’
And yesterday Diane Abbott said Sir Keir should ‘consider his position’ if he is fined for breaking lockdown rules. She told LBC: ‘I think this is a lot of hype built up by the Tory press. But if he were to get a fixed penalty notice, he would have to consider his position.
‘I’m a loyal supporter of Keir Starmer, I’m just making the common sense point that if he gets a fixed penalty notice he should consider his position.’
Party insiders said that potential successors to Sir Keir – including Ms Reeves, Mr Streeting and Ms Cooper – are now drawing up plans for a future leadership contest. ‘They’re all raising funds, talking to people,’ one Labour insider said.
He added: ‘The Mandelson, Streeting and Blair types were making noises during the local election campaign that they weren’t completely happy with him [Sir Keir]. But it will be for them to make the first move.’
Sources close to all three Labour frontbenchers last night dismissed the suggestion of leadership manoeuvres, stressing they were loyal to Sir Keir.
One said Mr Streeting’s donations were mostly funding his Shadow Health brief and a personal adviser for his office – not a leadership bid. However, one Labour insider said privately that given Sir Keir’s position, would-be replacements were right to lay the groundwork. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham – the so-called ‘King of the North’ – and London Mayor Sadiq Khan are also considered future Labour leaders. The two ex-MPs would first need to get back into the Commons. But there are rumours of long-serving MPs being prepared to stand down to make way for Mr Burnham or Mr Khan.
Did Left-wing activists sway a BBC report on Angela Rayner? Article headline on Labour deputy’s ‘leg-crossing comments’ was changed to mention party ‘dismissing Tory claims’
By GEORGIA EDKINS for the Mail on Sunday
An article posted on the Corporation’s website at about 4.30pm last Sunday – a few hours after The Mail on Sunday revealed that the Labour deputy leader herself made the comments, which she later branded ‘misogynistic’ – was headlined: ‘Rayner did make PMQs leg-crossing comments, Tories say.’
But by about 9pm the headline had been changed to ‘Labour dismisses Tory claims about Angela Rayner as ‘smear’ – a far more palatable alternative for the party. Critics believe that the BBC, suspected by many of inherent anti-Tory bias, gave into pressure from Left-wing activists who took to social media to complain about the original headline.
Angela Rayner herself made the comments, which she later branded ‘misogynistic’
Messages seen by the MoS show a BBC staff member confiding in a Tory MP at 6.58pm last Sunday that the Corporation was receiving ‘a lot of criticism’ over the article.
Last night, Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: ‘This is very telling. It always seems more easy to get stories changed at the BBC from the Left’s perspective than if you’re coming from the Right.
‘The BBC should not buckle to Twitter-inspired pile-ons, and the shouts and squeals of the very noisy Left.’
Rebecca Ryan, campaign director of the pressure group Defund The BBC, said: ‘Caving in because of criticism and changing the nature of the story to appease keyboard warriors is completely unacceptable and a dereliction of duty from a national broadcaster who claims it is impartial.’
The BBC carried extensive coverage of the row, but made no mention that IPSO, the newspaper regulator, last week said it would not be investigating complaints about the story. Last week we reported that Ms Rayner had told a group of MPs: ‘I cross and uncross my legs and give him [Mr Johnson] a flash of my ginger g******’ [a vulgar and offensive colloquialism].
Last night, a BBC spokesman said: ‘It’s common practice for headlines to be changed as stories develop.’
DAN HODGES: The voters will forgive many things Sir Keir, but self-righteous hypocrisy is just not one of them
DAN HODGES for the Mail on Sunday
‘At some point, this was in the evening, everybody’s hungry and then a takeaway was ordered. It was then delivered into the kitchen of the offices. So this was brought in, and at various points people went into the kitchen, got a plate, and got on with their work.’
But they didn’t. After months of inexplicable – and increasingly desperate – evasion, obfuscation and deceit, the truth about Beergate can finally be revealed.
I spoke to someone who was one of those – they estimate about 15 people – who were in the Durham offices for the duration of the event on April 30, 2021. And unlike Labour’s leader, they were clear and open about the details.
At about 7.30pm, Starmer filmed some clips to be used in campaign videos. Once that was completed, he sat down for a briefing with one of his press officers to prepare him for a series of interviews due to be conducted in Hartlepool the next day. Then he and his deputy Angela Rayner appeared via Zoom for an online Get Out The Vote campaign rally. That event ended about 9pm.
Labour lied. And lied. And lied again. ‘We were in the office to do work,’ Sir Keir Starmer told TV interviewer Susanna Reid last Wednesday
And it’s at this point that Labour begins to spin its web of deception. According to Starmer’s account, ‘everyone’s hungry, and a takeaway was ordered’. But there’s now compelling evidence that this was not the impromptu decision the Labour leader claimed.
From the beginning, Starmer and his team have wanted everyone to believe their decision to sit down for a curry and a beer was a spontaneous one, taken in the middle of their working day. But it wasn’t. It was planned.
According to my source, ‘if we’d have been in London we could have ordered food at 7.30pm and it would have arrived by 8pm. But it took ages for the food to arrive. I think it might have arrived late, but the order was phoned through earlier. I’m not sure when.’
Which matters. On Thursday’s Question Time, Labour MP Louise Haigh was asked what the difference was between her leader’s meal, and the event for which Boris and Rishi Sunak were fined.
She replied: ‘Well, that was by all accounts pre-arranged, a social event.’ And as the Prime Minister and his Chancellor found to their cost, pre-arranged social events – however minor – were in breach of the rules.
Starmer and his aides have wanted everyone to believe something else. ‘At various points people went into the kitchen, got a plate, and got on with their work,’ he claimed. In other words, the eating and drinking and working were conducted concurrently.
On Thursday’s Question Time, Labour MP Louise Haigh was asked what the difference was between her leader’s meal, and the event for which Boris and Rishi Sunak were fined. She replied: ‘Well, that was by all accounts pre-arranged, a social event;
They were all part of the campaign activity that – at that period in the lockdown cycle – was allowed by law. But again, it was a falsehood. The Mail on Sunday has obtained a copy of Starmer’s schedule for the day in question. It has a clearly defined entry: ‘20.40 – 22.00 Dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy.’
The curry and beers don’t appear to ever be part of the campaigning activity. From the very beginning, they were always supposed to be a standalone, pre-planned ‘dinner’ with the local Labour MP.
Which is why Keir Starmer and his team propagated a third deception. ‘We were very busy,’ he told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth in January. ‘We were working in the office. We stopped for something to eat, and then we carried on working.’
But again, the evidence is clear that they didn’t. I asked my source if it was true that after the curry had been delivered, Starmer and his team went back to work. ‘Of course not,’ the source said. I asked if they were absolutely sure. ‘I’m not aware of any work after. It certainly wasn’t in any plan or schedule,’ they reiterated.
Which again is confirmed by Starmer’s official itinerary. The Mary Foy dinner is followed by one final entry. ‘22.00 – 22.15 Walk from Miners Hall to Radisson Blu.’
An eyewitness and Starmer’s own diary confirm he never went back to work after his beer and curry. Instead, he got into his car with his protection officers and returned to his hotel. His staff apparently walked or got taxis.
‘I’m not sure when they all got back, but no one was hanging around at the hall,’ my source confirmed.
And with that, all the pieces finally fall into place. The seemingly bizarre attempts to play down the scale of the event. Rayner was there, but Labour initially pretended she wasn’t. Starmer said he thought he was with about six staff, but my source cites 15, and other sources have said as many as 30.
The strange incident on the House of Commons terrace, when Mary Foy grabbed at Tory MP Richard Holden, and began angrily berating him for asking Durham Constabulary to reopen the investigation.
And the thing that confused me most of all: as the questioning over what happened that evening intensified, Starmer and his team become more and more evasive.
He claimed he had filmed ‘pieces to camera’. But no one could provide them.
He claimed to have done other campaigning activity. But no one could even outline precisely what that was.
Now we know why. The reason Starmer and his team failed to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the events of that night was because to do so would have meant admitting they retained a detailed record. And once they had done that, they would have been asked to provide it.
At that point everyone would have seen the Mary Foy ‘dinner’. They would have seen no one was scheduled to go back to work after the dinner.
They would have seen, in other words, that Labour’s explanations about exactly what happened that night were a tissue of lies.
This morning, Starmer is calling on people to be patient, and give Durham police time to conclude the investigation they have reopened after receiving ‘significant new information’. But back in January, he adopted a rather different stance.
‘Honesty and decency matter,’ Starmer opined, after the Metropolitan Police announced they were commencing an investigation into Boris Johnson’s lockdown breaches. ‘After months of denials, the Prime Minister is now under criminal investigation for breaking his own lockdown laws. He needs to do the decent thing and resign.’
Rayner wrote: ‘What a reflection on the man who holds the very highest office in our country. Yet still he feels he can hang on? A complete disgrace.’
Well, if Johnson does feel he can hang on, this is why. That beer the Labour leader swallowed last April is poisoning him. The voters will forgive many things. But hypocrisy – or even worse, self-righteous hypocrisy – is politically toxic.
And Starmer is already toxic enough. Despite the best efforts of Labour’s spinners, Thursday’s election results represented another dismal mid-term Labour showing. Further erosion of the Red Wall. Minimal gains in the South and South East. A series of pyrrhic triumphs in its London bastion.
And that was before Durham Constabulary came knocking. Now all Starmer’s portentous words are going to come back – not so much to haunt him, as descend on him like avenging furies.
Trust. Honesty. Decency. Transparency. These were supposed to form the foundation of Starmer’s leadership, and ultimately, premiership. A foundation that, through his own stupidity, is splintering beneath his feet.
What has he been thinking these past few weeks? As the questions mounted, and the lies were compounded, why didn’t he call a halt, and just tell the truth?
How has he failed to learn the lesson of Johnson’s own Partygate defenestration? And remember the cast-iron political rule: it’s never the offence, it’s the cover-up.
On the first anniversary of his election as Labour leader, Starmer was asked what qualities he shares with his great political rival.
‘I don’t want to be Boris Johnson,’ he said. ‘I’m not like Boris Johnson in any respect. There’s almost nothing we have in common.’
There is now, Sir Keir.