Friday, 27 May 2022

Keir Starmer party: Did Labour leader’s drink with staff break lockdown rules? Fact check

Sir Keir Starmer refuses to apologise for drinks during Covid

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The photo, revisited as the ‘partygate’ controversy engulfed Boris Johnson, shows him clutching a beer bottle while speaking to staff at a Durham office. The footage ignited immediate outrage, and saw some people call for the Labour leader to tender his resignation. But he denied wrongdoing, and has framed the photo with existing Covid guidance at the time.

Did Keir Starmer break lockdown rules?

The picture of Sir Keir’s gathering on April 30 last year has started making rounds again this week.

In the photo, he appeared with four other figures in a room at the constituency office of Durham MP Mary Foy.

At the time, ministers were governing the latest Covid outbreak with the “step” system, and the country was on the second of four.

Those rules strictly banned some types of socialising, limiting what people did indoors and outdoors.

They prohibited gatherings with anyone aside from people in “your household or support bubble”.

And guidance for businesses remained to “work from home” where possible.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 that permitted the steps also came with a raft of exceptions.

Exception three states gatherings are allowed “for certain purposes”.

These include those “reasonably necessary” for “work purposes or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services”.

Exception 20 states gatherings are permitted so long as it “consists of no more than two people, at least one of whom is a campaigner (C)”.

The advice also permitted gatherings at a “private dwelling of a person (P)” during a campaign.

In this case, the campaigner must remain outside their dwelling in an outdoor or a “common part of the building”.

The exception clarified that, in this case, the gathering must be “reasonably necessary for the purposes of campaigning in an election or a referendum”.

At the time, both Mr Johnson and Sir Keir were campaigning for the seat in Hartlepool.

They both held gatherings “for work purposes” that would fall under the political campaigning exemption.

Sir Keir claimed he was in the constituency office of Ms Foy “days before the election”, where he and his team worked.

While there, he said “food turned up” at “some time”, and the team stopped to eat.

The staff then “carried on working” afterwards, meaning the meeting likely fell within Government rules.

The leader confirmed this, stating last week it was “not a breach of the rules” and “no comparison to the Prime Minister”.

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