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My last post on Labour’s 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham is a week old.

The intrigue continues and so much more has happened.

It is important to reiterate that while many on social media say it did not break the coronavirus rules …

… there were specific rules for the 2021 election campaign, some of which differed from regulations for households.

Indoor campaign meetings were banned in 2021:

Let’s recall how Labour told an untruth about Angela Rayner’s not being at the April 30, 2021 event in Durham when she clearly was. Labour had to own up:

The Daily Mail reported that Labour claimed it was an honest mistake (emphases in purple mine):

Labour last night admitted it had lied about an event at which Sir Keir Starmer is alleged to have broken lockdown rules. 

In a sensational U-turn, Labour acknowledged that Angela Rayner was also at the event on April 30 last year at which Sir Keir was filmed enjoying a beer with officials at a time when indoor socialising was banned.

A Labour spokesman said last night: ‘Angela was present.’ A party source claimed the previous denials had been ‘an honest mistake’. 

It directly contradicts assurances given to the Daily Mail over the past three months that Mrs Rayner was ‘not there’

The admission came only after this newspaper confronted Labour officials with video evidence that Mrs Rayner had joined Sir Keir at an online rally for activists filmed in the Durham offices of Labour MP Mary Foy where the party leader was later seen drinking

The extraordinary revelation raises questions about whether Labour’s deputy leader also broke lockdown rules.

Recall that, for months, Labour, including Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, have been braying for Boris Johnson to resign:

Incidentally, once given a fixed penalty notice (fine) for one of the Downing Street events, Boris paid his promptly as did Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

With regard to Durham, their only Conservative MP, Richard Holden, wrote to Durham Constabulary to enquire about Labour’s indoor event.

Durham MP Mary Foy, who appears to have hosted the event in her office, took strong exception to Holden’s letter. She accosted him in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar at the end of April:

Guido Fawkes had the story (emphases in the original):

The pressures of beergate are obviously getting to Labour MPs more than they’d like to admit: Labour MP Mary Foy launched into a furious drunken tirade against Richard Holden in the Strangers’ Bar on Tuesday night, after Holden asked Durham Police to reinvestigate Starmer for his lockdown beer drinking. Which isn’t exactly surprising, given the infamous event took place in Foy’s own constituency office…

Foy allegedly grabbed Holden’s arm and hurled so much abuse at him that her staff had to pull her away. Having had a skinful, she growled “how dare you name me and my office in this?” as apologetic staffers tried to calm her down. A witness told the Daily Mail she was “feeling the pressure”. Guido can’t imagine this morning’s revelations about Angela Rayner will do much to soothe her…

Holden threatened to take the matter to the Speaker unless she apologised the following morning. Lo and behold, on Wednesday morning Holden found “I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour on the terrace last night” in his inbox. Holden tells Guido she then went on to talk about how they could work together as Durham MPs …

The Daily Mail reported:

Three witnesses told the Daily Mail that Mary Foy vented her fury at Richard Holden on the Commons terrace on Tuesday night.

She is said to have verbally abused him for asking Durham Police to reopen the investigation into footage of the Labour leader having a beer with officials in her office on April 30, 2021.

Witnesses claim the City of Durham MP grabbed Mr Holden by the arm with both hands and tried to drag him across the terrace before staff restrained her.

Each witness said the former charity worker, 54, appeared to have been drinking heavily when the incident took place at around 10pm as MPs waited for late-night votes.

Goodness me. Being boozed up while waiting to vote on legislation? Unbelievable.

Anyway:

Mr Holden confirmed he had received a written apology from Mrs Foy the following morning. He said: ‘Mary has apologised for her totally unacceptable, drunken behaviour on the terrace and I want to leave it at that.’

A Tory source said Mrs Foy’s behaviour suggested the ‘pressure is showing’ on Labour as Durham Police face calls to finally launch a proper investigation into Sir Keir.

Mrs Foy declined to comment on the allegations when contacted yesterday and referred all questions to Labour’s press office. A party source confirmed she issued a personal apology.

The source said the pair had been drinking together in a group where there was ‘a bit of back and forth on politics generally’.

They added that it was ‘incorrect’ to say Mrs Foy had grabbed Mr Holden’s arm, but did not comment on claims she was drunk.

But several witnesses said they were shocked by the ferocity of her tirade.

More happened that day, Friday, April 29.

BBC Breakfast‘s review of the newspapers left out the Daily Mail‘s aforementioned front page with Angela Rayner on it, although reporter Iain Watson later soft-pedalled Labour’s claim that it was an honest mistake:

Guido rightly observed that the nation’s broadcaster had not afforded the Conservatives such gracious treatment:

When they finally got around to discussing the exposé, political correspondent Iain Watson was at pains to emphasise Labour’s absurd line that it was just an “honest mistake”, incredibly kind framing Guido’s sure Downing Street would not receive. The Metropolitan Police decided to U-turn and investigate No. 10’s parties after months of media pressure; now Labour’s been caught out, the establishment media is doing its best to downplay the rule-breaking. Labour must be thanking their lucky stars…

At lunchtime, Guido posted Sir Keir’s detailed timeline, complete with photos and videos, up North in Hull and Durham:

At the end of the timeline, Guido reminded us of what Angela Rayner had said only a week earlier:

April 20, 2022: Angela Rayner is asked “If Keir Starmer, had been fined for the beer and sandwiches that he had or was perhaps it was just beer. Should he have resigned?” Rayner replies “If Keir Starmer had broken the law, then Yes.”

This was the Mail‘s front page on Saturday, April 30. It was a newsy day, especially with disgraced now-former Conservative MP Neil Parish:

That was also the first anniversary of the event in Durham:

The next day, the Mail on Sunday called Starmer a hypocrite, something a Sky News presenter quizzed him about (video here):

Keir Starmer avoided the BBC that morning. Instead, one of his MPs, David Lammy, went on to chat with Sophie Raworth (videos here and here). By now, the public were catching on that Labour had been obfuscating for nearly five months:

On Tuesday, May 3, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole reported that Starmer’s security detail from London’s Metropolitan Police were in Durham on the night in question. Hmm:

Cole wrote, in part:

Witnesses suggest dozens of MPs and aides gathered at Miners’ Hall, with the police car still there late into the evening.

One bystander who walked past at 11pm said: “The place was still lit up and busy and Keir’s car was still outside.”

The Sun has also revealed that £200 was spent on takeaway curry for dozens of MPs and aides at the bash.

That day, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn wrote that Starmer should be careful about his situation, given he has been running roughshod over Boris, clamouring constantly for his resignation:

Starmer called for both Johnson and Sunak to quit over their fixed penalty notices despite knowing that the full truth about his own campaign-trail gathering had not come out.

For starters, Labour said its deputy leader Angela Rayner was not at the event when she was. This according to Starmer was a simple ‘mistake’ made in good faith. But has he ever conceded Johnson could have made simple mistakes in good faith about what constituted unlawful gatherings? Of course not

Can Starmer be said to have ‘come clean’ about his own lockdown socialising? Hardly. He is still being evasive now about what exactly the ‘work’ was that his team supposedly returned to after beer and pizza had been consumed around 10 p.m. on a Friday night …

When Starmer was first questioned about beergate, back in January, he told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth: ‘If you’re trying to persuade anyone that stopping to have some food when you’re in the office all day working is a breach of the rules, it’s just not going to wash.’ Yet hasn’t such thinking been at the heart of his own relentless attacks on Johnson?

Starmer the lawyer may think he has winning answers to these questions. Were he a better politician, he would see immediately that he does not. He has been hoisted by his own petard and may soon crash land against some particularly unforgiving ramparts.

The Mail‘s Stephen Pollard also posted an editorial on Starmer. Pollard, by the way, is a member of the Labour Party. However, he abhors the hypocrisy of Starmer’s handling of the Durham event compared with his verbal harassment in the Commons of Boris and Rishi:

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?

Also on that day, we found out who took the videos and photos of the Durham event — students at Durham University. The Mail reported that the Met’s vehicle piqued their curiosity:

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

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

The Mail did not name the students, but Guido knew who one of them was back in January 2022:

On January 18, Guido revealed the student’s identity once the images of the Durham event had reached The Sun, The Telegraph and The Mail:

… the person who snapped the incriminating footage – James Delingpole’s son, Ivo – is just as angry with the Tories as anyone else. Taking to Instagram yesterday he reacted to the Mail’s splash with pleasant surprise:

Bit strange to have a video I filmed… on the front cover of a newspaper. I didn’t make any money from it and didn’t send it to them, but glad the hypocrisy was outed nonetheless

However he followed up:

It was last year and just outside my university house… I hope this in no way helps the Prime Minister defend himself from critics, and that he gets no respite from the questioning and criticism [he] deserves …

But even that splash in three newspapers didn’t stop Starmer. In fact, he doubled down, as we can see in this tweet from January 31:

Returning to last week, Wednesday, May 4, the day before the election, the Mail had the following front page on the seventh day of Beergate. Someone should write a song …

Starmer appeared on ITV1’s Good Morning Britain that day. Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley interviewed him. Things did not go spectacularly well, even if Reid is left-of-centre politically:

Guido had the story and video:

For the seventh consecutive day, Starmer is battling the headlines over Beergate. This morning the Sun reports Starmer and Labour aides spent £200 on takeaway food on the night the infamous photo was taken – enough curry to feed 30 people for what Labour still insists was just a quick meal during important campaign work. That line is becoming increasingly untenable, as Starmer’s appearance just now on Good Morning Britain attests…

Speaking to Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley, Starmer trotted out the boilerplate excuses Labour have been using for a week, much of which was irrelevant waffle about how many camera pieces he recorded that day. Not once did he deny reports it turned into a £200, 30-person feast …

He recorded some video messages on a laptop – doesn’t require 30 people, beer and curry late on a Friday night to do that. When Susanna Reid asked why any of this was actually relevant, Starmer claimed:

We were on the road, at the end of the day, we were in the office preparing. Now, that evening, from memory, we were doing an online event for members… at some point, this was in the evening, everyone is hungry. A takeaway was ordered… in Durham all restaurants and pubs were closed.

Of course, that last part is untrue: hospitality reopened for outdoor service on April 12, and the Durham event took place on April 30. Still, at least Starmer confirmed the police haven’t been in touch yet, something he couldn’t say yesterday for some reason. If Starmer’s finding all this scrutiny unnecessary, Guido would just remind him he called for Rishi to resign last month for singing ‘happy birthday’. Or was that just pointless mudslinging?

Guido’s tweet about Good Morning Britain had a response about why Labour might not have wanted to put Angela Rayner in the frame until they were forced to:

That day, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce looked at the possible people helping Starmer obfuscate. We already know about Mary Foy MP and I covered Joy Allen, the head of Durham Constabulary, in a previous post. She was not at the event.

The others follow — Allen’s deputy, the curry house and the other Labour MP for Durham:

PCC Allen’s second-in-command is Nigel Bryson, who happens to be a long-standing friend of hers. They met, inevitably, through the Labour Party and she has attracted criticism for appointing him without advertising. Challenged over this failure to vet anyone else, she said: ‘I’ve got somebody who knows everything about me as a candidate… I could go through the process but it would just be possibly going through the motions.’ So that’s all right then.

The Capital is one of Durham’s finest Indian restaurants and this week it emerged its delivery driver had dropped off a ‘£200’ feast for the gathering, including biryanis, tikka masalas, rice and naan breads. The driver initially told the Daily Mail there were ’30 or so people’ inside – but bizarrely later insisted he had no recollection of making the delivery.

Yet the curry house has been known to have friendly relations with Durham’s Labour machine.

In May 2020, during the first lockdown, local MP Foy hailed it for supplying meals to NHS workers and posed for photographs with head chef Syed Islam.

Bordering Foy’s constituency is North Durham, with MP Kevan Jones. He has also remained silent about the night in question – and this isn’t surprising.

A leading figure in the local Labour community, Jones himself has broken lockdown laws – not once, but twice. The first breach came on May 7, 2020, when he took part in a group photo shoot in his constituency, promoting artwork in praise of the NHS. A noble cause – but the rules about socialising were clear. Jones committed another breach three days later.

A video shows him attending an indoor party for 100-year-old veteran Frederick Herron, allegedly attended by about 40 people. Who would begrudge a hero centenarian a fitting celebration? Nobody – except Starmer and Labour have consistently claimed that the law should have been upheld.

Asked yesterday about his lockdown breaches, Jones said he would ‘rather not comment’.

The plot thickened and the intrigue continued.

More tomorrow, beginning with what the papers said on Election Day.

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