Wes Streeting defended Keir Starmer over beergate on Sky News (Photo: Sky News)
The shadow health secretary was passionately defending the leader of his party after a weekend of new headlines about so-called “beergate”, an event where Starmer has been accused of breaching social distancing rules.
Although Durham Police previously said they believed no offence was committed, the case has now been reopened following repeated calls from the Conservative Party.
Asked what Starmer would do if he were found to have broken lockdown rules and fined on BBC Breakfast, Streeting replied: “I just don’t think that’s going to happen, I’m not going to entertain that prospect.”
Streeting also mocked the memo published by the Daily Mail over the weekend, which suggested that the meal Starmer was caught eating indoors (with a beer) was planned in advance. This comes after the Labour leader said that the gathering was spontaneous.
The Labour MP replied: “One of the remarkable things about that story in the Mail, was that it was entirely unsurprising and non-revelatory for anyone who has been involved in an election campaign.
“When you go on visits around the country, as Lisa Nandy said yesterday morning, senior politicians like Keir Starmer don’t just rock up in a place like Durham and wander around aimlessly.”
He said it was “reasonable” that Starmer’s dinner in Durham would have been arranged, so the memo does not “contradict anything” that the Labour leader has previously said about beergate.
Streeting claimed: “I don’t understand the controversy and certainly don’t understand the comparison between that and the regular repeated rule-breaking in Downing Street and the lies of the prime minister.”
He repeated that the big difference is that Johnson has been fined for attending a party in Downing Street in June 2020.
“And in this case, let’s not forget, that police have looked at this before,” Streeting continued. “OK, they’re looking at it again now, there’s been lots of calls particularly from the Conservative Party for them to do so.”
He claimed that he expected the same outcome as the first time the police looked at the incident, adding: “I saw nothing in that memo in the Daily Mail which I hadn’t heard before.”
When pressed as to why the Labour leader had cancelled his media event today, prompting speculation he was avoiding difficult questions, Streeting said he had “no idea” why.
But, he said Starmer had been answering journalists’ questions wherever he’s been across the country, so it’s “simply not true” that he’s been ducking scrutiny from the press.
Streeting echoed this message when he appeared on Sky News later on.
He promised that the police’s ongoing investigation into the prime minister and new probe into the Labour leader is very different, as Starmer will not be found guilty.
Streeting said: “What it will show is the stark contrast between Boris Johnson who was fined, Boris Johnson who lied about there being any events under his roof.”
He also claimed it was “perfectly legitimate campaigning activity”, compared to the rule-breaking in Tories.
He went on to describe the Daily Mail’s memo revelation as: “Breaking news: Keir Starmer has dinner.”
“I don’t think people out there around the country think Keir Starmer is the kind of bloke who goes out there breaking the rules and getting smashed on a campaign.
“This is all stretching credibility!”
When Sky’s Kay Burley pointed out that Labour had not initially admitted deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was also at the gathering, Streeting said it was a “genuine cock-up” from the party to say she wasn’t there, but that there was clearly “nothing to gain” by lying about it intentionally.
He added that he was “frustrated, because all this is about is trying to drag an innocent man into the mud”.
But, as Burley pointed out.: “it’s never the cock-up, it’s the cover-up.”
She noted that in January, Starmer said Johnson “needs to do the decent thing and resign”, when the prime minister was just under investigation – as the Labour leader himself is now.
But, Streeting said Johnson had already been found to be lying to parliament at that point.
“How the Conservatives have the barefaced cheek to come out, gloating and demanding resignations and throwing round accusations of hypocrisy, I don’t know. They should get their house in order.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.