Keir Starmer: ‘About 15’ people were at ‘beergate’ gathering

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Sir Keir Starmer appeared on ITV's Loose Women on Monday - Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Sir Keir Starmer appeared on ITV's Loose Women on Monday - Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

Sir Keir Starmer has admitted that "about 15" people were at the "beergate" gathering in April last year.

The Labour leader said he had "put everything on the line" over the controversy and insisted he was the "complete opposite" of Boris Johnson.

Sir Keir has vowed to resign if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice over a takeaway curry with colleagues in Durham.

He was caught on camera drinking a beer in a local MP's office after a day of campaigning for elections last spring. At the time, Covid rules meant indoor gatherings were banned except for work purposes.

Appearing on Loose Women for the first time, the Labour leader said "about 15 or so" people were present for the curry.

"The team is always pretty much the same," he said. "We've got a camera person, a videographer, comms adviser, policy adviser, someone from my leader's office who organises the visit, two protection officers and me, that's the eight that I travel with everywhere I go."

Previously, Sir Keir has avoided answering questions about the specific number of people at the gathering.

Asked in January on LBC's Call Keir radio show, he responded in general terms, saying: "Normally I have about six with me – whether it was six or not I don't know, usually when I travel around the country we have about six people with us."

During his appearance on Loose Women, he said: "I have put everything on the line because I think that that is the right thing to do. That is the complete opposite to the Prime Minister."

Sir Keir maintained he did not break the rules in Durham and said he was "sure" police would come to the same conclusion. He said the police investigation into "beergate" was a "completely different situation" to the investigation into Downing Street parties.

The Labour leader told the programme the "bigger point" about his pledge to resign was maintaining public trust in politics.

He said: "The number of times I hear 'you're all the same, you won't do the right thing'. I think trust is everything in politics. I have put everything on the line for that honour and that integrity because I don't believe all politicians are the same."

Sir Keir pledged to resign if he is fined last week, after mounting pressure over allegations that he and his staff broke Covid rules and accusations of hypocrisy over Labour’s demands for Mr Johnson to step down over partygate.

He said he would only resign if issued with a fixed penalty notice, despite calling for Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak to quit in January when a police investigation into "partygate" was first launched.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, also said she would step down if fined by police over the gathering.

Addressing Labour MPs on Monday, Sir Keir downplayed the "beergate" controversy, saying it was "not the most important story" and calling it "a political attack" by the Tories, "aided and abetted by their camp followers".

He told a meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party the Tories were "desperate" to shine a light on his team's curry because "they have nothing else" to talk about.e gathering.