Beergate: Why post-10pm Hull local election tweet may help Keir Starmer's defence

Local election campaign messages were sent by Sir Keir Starmer’s social media accounts about a visit to Hull on the night of ‘Beergate’ - potentially backing up the Labour leader’s contention his work continued that night after 10pm, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Sir Keir is facing a police investigation for a possible breach of coronavirus lockdown laws over a beer-and-curry event in Durham on that same night, April 30, 2021.

A leaked memo published in the Mail on Sunday indicated the takeaway in Durham had been planned as part of his itinerary for the day of campaigning in April 2021 and, no further work was scheduled after the dinner.

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At the time of the Durham gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.

Sir Keir previously said no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.

Labour has also indicated that Sir Keir was working, so the meal did not constitute a social event.

The leaked memo published by the Mail on Sunday showed that the dinner in Durham had been listed on the schedule for Sir Keir’s day in April 2021 during the local election and Hartlepool by-election campaigns. The newspaper also reported that the hotel Sir Keir was staying in was serving food until 9pm.

The document states that there would be a “dinner in Miners Hall” with City of Durham MP Mary Foy from 8.40pm to 10pm – and a note indicates a member of staff in Sir Keir’s office was to arrange the takeaway curry from the Spice Lounge.

Keir Starmer had been on a visit to Hull on the day of what has now been termed 'Beergate'

The only business listed after the dinner is for Sir Keir to walk back to his hotel – he has previously claimed he “paused for food” and continued working after the meal, saying “the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd”.

Checks of Sir Keir’s social media pages show that a message was sent from his Twitter account at 10.13pm on the evening encouraging people in Hull to vote Labour in the following week’s local elections.

It followed a visit to the city earlier that day by Sir Keir where he was accompanied by local Labour MPs Dame Diana Johnson and Emma Hardy.

The tweet said Sir Keir had a “wonderful day in an amazing city”.

It said: “I was touched by the warmth and openness of the people of Hull and the pride they have for their city. It’s a pride shared by their Labour council. Just one week to polling day, vote Labour.”

An identical message was posted on Sir Keir’s Facebook page at 10.16pm the same night.

Both posts were accompanied by a selection of pictures including Sir Keir chatting to drinkers outside the Humber Street Distillery.

Labour did not answer questions from The Yorkshire Post about whether Sir Keir directly runs or signs off messages from his Twitter and Facebook accounts or whether the activity is carried out by a staff member. It did not answer whether the messages were sent out at the moment they appeared online or had been scheduled earlier in the day.

But a Labour spokesperson said: “We remain clear that no rules were broken and our focus continues to be on tackling the public’s concerns such as the cost of living crisis.”

It comes after an anonymous source who was present at the event told the Sunday Times: “It has been claimed that Starmer worked during the curry and then after the curry. None of those two things happened. He did not go back to work to the best of my knowledge.”

The source said some of those present were not working at all, and “were just there for a jolly”.

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, told reporters on Saturday: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.

“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab accused Sir Keir of “complete hypocrisy”.

Asked if Sir Keir should quit, Mr Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It’s the rank double standards that drive people crazy.

“He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer-and-curry event in Durham.”

He added: “Keir Starmer looks like, I’m afraid, someone who is engaged in complete hypocrisy, complete double standards and I don’t think he is going to get past that until he gives a proper account of what happened in Durham.”

But Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy said she was “absolutely confident” Sir Keir had not broken the law.

She said said her boss “is Mr Rules, he does not break the rules” as she accused the Conservatives of an “absolutely desperate attempt to sling mud”.

Ms Nandy told Sky News: “He went on a work visit, he stopped to eat at various times during the day as was factored into the work visit and then he finished the work visit and he went back to his hotel.

“I think this, the last few weeks we’ve seen an absolutely desperate attempt to sling mud at the Labour leader and various members of the Labour Party and it is frankly absurd of the Tories to claim that this in any way equates to a Prime Minister who was under investigation by the police for 12 separate gatherings which included karaoke parties, bring your own bottle parties, pub quizzes, suitcases full of wine being smuggled through the back door.

“The Prime Minister lied about that, he denied that they happened, he denied that he was there, he came clean and he laughed about it.

“Keir Starmer went on a work visit and had a break to eat, the idea that this is the same sort of thing is just a sign of a Government that’s tired, is desperate and is completely out of ideas that spends more time slinging mud at the Labour Party than working out how they’re going to deal with pensioners who are now struggling so much to heat their homes that they’re having to get on buses in order to avoid the cold.”

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