'Hypocrite' Starmer's Think-Tank Speech Cancelled as 'Beergate' Plot Thickens
11:54 GMT 09.05.2022 (Updated: 11:55 GMT 09.05.2022)
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has pinned his hopes of overturning the government's landslide majority in Parliament on the 'Partygate' scandal of alleged staff socialising over wine and nibbles at 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown, while failing to oppose the government on almost any concrete policy.
A keynote speech by the British opposition leader has been cancelled days after police announced a probe into his alleged breaches of COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Sir Keir Starmer was set to address the Institute for Government think-tank on Monday afternoon to pitch the Labour Party line on the problems besetting the country as sanctions on Russia have backfired.
But on Sunday the institute's website
announced the event had been cancelled, with reason given.
However, that morning's edition of the Mail on Sunday
splashed on a leaked internal Labour Party memo that indicated Starmer and other Labour officials had lied about an event in Durham last year where he and deputy leader Angela Rayner allegedly broke lockdown rules
Starmer has repeatedly demanded that Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson resign after the Metropolitan Police handed him a fine of £50 over a surprise birthday party thrown for him by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street in June 2020. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was also fined for being caught up in the celebration with staff just before a cabinet meeting.
The Labour leader's obsession with 'Cakegate' backfired when the 'Beergate' video emerged of him swigging from a bottle in the office of City of Durham MP Mary Foy.
Starmer's claim that he was only taking part in permitted local election campaign work and not socialising — and that takeaway food was ordered because all restaurants were shut — have now been discredited by the leaked memo, which invites party activists to book in advance for a curry meal with the leader.
One driver for local restaurant the Capital Indian said he delivered a huge order late that evening that would have fed at least 15 people, well over the 'Rule of Six' limit for socialising in place at the time.
The Durham Constabulary announced on Friday
that it had re-opened its investigation into the event, stating that the force had delayed the announcement until after Thursday's council elections in which Labour made meagre gains
"Will you resign if you're fined by Durham Police?" a reporter asked a tight-lipped Starmer outside his home o Sunday morning. "Are you a hypocrite, Sir Keir?"
Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting scrambled to defend his boss on Sky News
on Monday, claiming the party's now-debunked claims that Rayner was not present and that activists continued working after the dinner were a "genuine cock-up".
"No rules were broken, this is perfectly legitimate" he insisted, while accusing the Tories of "slinging mud" at Starmer by making the same allegations as he used against them.
"We've had weeks and weeks of the Tories slinging mud at Keir Starmer, hoping that people will just conclude that we're all the same, there's no point in changing prime ministers because the next one will be as bad as the current one," Streeting said. "I'm not going to get into the game that the Tories are playing with their friends in the media of trying to smear a decent man and pretend that Keir Starmer's behaviour is in any way comparable with Boris Johnson."
Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, speaking on a trip to the US, claimed there was no double standard because Starmer, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, was not part of the government that "made the rules".
Asked if Starmer should resign if fined, he said: "No. Unfortunately, the last time I checked Keir Starmer isn't the prime minister or the chancellor."
"Why is the British public angry? … The anger is because those who made those rules were breaking them," Khan claimed.
In fact, the pandemic lockdown restrictions were passed by Parliament, with Labour voting in favour of them even when dozens of Tory backbenchers rebelled.
Starmer's keynote address was timed to pre-empt the Queen's Speech on Tuesday, when the monarch will set out the government's legislative agenda at the opening of the new session of Parliament.
Its sudden cancellation could be a bad omen for Labour. The Institute for Government is funded by Lord David Sainsbury, an heir to the national supermarket chain and a major party donor who was a junior minister in Tony Blair's government from 1998 to 2006.