Sir Keir Starmer is “not slouching under scrutiny” by withdrawing from an event at which he would have faced fresh questions over claims he broke coronavirus rules, a Labor frontbencher has insisted.
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting defended the Labor leader against what he described as Tory mudslinging, but admitted he had “no idea” why Sir Keir canceled Monday’s event.
Labor has given no explanation as to why Sir Keir’s participation in the Institute for Government discussion was canceled other than to say plans are changing.
Sir Keir would have been expected to take questions from the media as he is under investigation by police over the Durham beer and curry meeting in April last year.
Labor insists the meal was consumed between work events, meaning it complied with the rules despite the ban on indoor socializing.
But the Labor leader faced calls to answer fresh questions after a leaked memo indicated the takeout was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.
Asked why Sir Keir scrapped his appearance, Mr Streeting told BBC Breakfast: “I have no idea why he canceled the event and I certainly didn’t ask before I came because I think it would is a trivial problem.
“The idea of Keir dodging questions… I mean he was out all weekend, even after a local campaign where we did very well, he was out to thank the Labor teams, particularly at the localities , on which we did particularly well in these elections. ”
Mr Streeting added that Sir Keir confronted journalists “wherever he was”, including as recently as Saturday, adding: “The idea that Keir is somehow escaping scrutiny is just not true.”
Conservative University Secretary Michelle Donelan has accused Sir Keir of hypocrisy after he pressured Boris Johnson over breaches of the Downing Street lockdown, for which the PM was fined by police.
Asked whether the Labor leader should resign if she is fined, she told Sky News: “I think this is a decision for him, he needs to search his soul after he has done this at the expense of important issues in recent months made it a top priority like the rising cost of living etc, but look, that’s a choice for him.
“My conclusion is that it smacks of pure hypocrisy.”
Labor MP Mary Foy has denied reports that staff were drunk at the event at the Durham MPs’ constituency office.
In a statement, she said: “These allegations about my staff are untrue.
“I have already said that I and my team have been working at a very busy time, including facilitating the leader’s visit. I don’t think I or my office staff broke any rules.”
When asked why Sir Keir withdrew from Monday’s discussion, a Labor spokesman said: “Plans are changing.”
At the time of the Durham gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor spaces, including outdoor dining areas, were open, but social distancing rules – including a ban on households mixing indoors – remained in place.
Sir Keir previously said that no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach, so “if you didn’t get takeaway food, our team didn’t eat that night”.
Labor has indicated that the meal was not a social event as Sir Keir was working.
Sir Keir, a former chief prosecutor, told reporters on Saturday: “As I have explained several times, I was working in the office, we stopped to eat.
“There was no party, no breaking of the rules, I’m confident.”
He said he will not resign and lead Labor in the next general election.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/wes-streeting-covid-institute-for-government-durham-breakfast-b2074516.html Keir Starmer ‘doesn’t bob under scrutiny’ over Covid issues, Ally stresses