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Keir Starmer: I’ll quit if given Covid lockdown fine by police

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he will quit if given a fine by Durham police for breaking lockdown rules.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner also confirmed she would step down if fined.

The opposition leader has been under pressure after police announced a probe into an event in April 2021, when he had curry and beer at an MP's office during an election campaign visit.

Sir Keir has insisted rules were not broken and Labour says it has evidence showing it was a work event.

Responding to Sir Keir's statement, Culture Minister Chris Philp accused the Labour leader trying to "pressure the police into clearing him", which he called "deeply inappropriate".

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Conservatives had previously accused Sir Keir of "rank double standards" as the opposition leader had called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to resign over attending Downing Street lockdown events.

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Durham police launched their inquiry on Friday after the local elections, having previously said they did not believe an offence had been committed.

It's thought the police investigation could last up to eight weeks.

The event under investigation took place at the constituency office of City of Durham Labour MP Mary Foy, where Sir Keir drank beer and ate curry, while lockdown restrictions were in place.

There was an exemption for "work purposes" – and Labour have said Sir Keir was eating "between work demands".

The party says it has "documentary evidence" that people worked before and after the meal on the night in question.

A source said the party had evidence Sir Keir's team worked until 01:00, as first reported by the Guardian.

Analysis box by Chris Mason, political editor

This is a massive gamble from Sir Keir Starmer – but one where circumstance, in his judgement, made the alternative worse.

Say nothing and be politically crippled for up to two months, while the police decide what to do.

A former director of public prosecutions, steeped in the law, who called for the prime minister and chancellor to resign for breaking the rules, unwilling to confirm what he'd do if the same thing happens.

Instead Sir Keir has said if he's fined he'll resign.

This means he can reclaim – at least some – moral high ground and say the moral bar he set for others is the one he'll hold himself to.

It places a colossal responsibility on the shoulders of Durham police: their decision could finish the political career of a man who hopes to be the next prime minister.

It means in the short term Keir Starmer has some political room for manoeuvre.

In the long term, if he avoids a fine, it could help define him – and his character – in the public's mind.

If he doesn't, it's curtains for him, and a Labour leadership race will beckon.

Read more from Chris here

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Addressing the police inquiry on Monday, Sir Keir said he had "always followed the rules" and outlined how Covid rules had prevented him from offering support to his father-in-law when his wife's mother died.

"Barely a day has passed when we haven't agonised over that decision," he said.

He reiterated his insistence that he had not broken the rules and suggested his opponents "didn't believe it themselves" but were simply trying "to get the public to believe all politicians are the same".

"I'm here to say they are not – I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws should follow them," he added.

"If the police decide to issue me with a fixed-penalty notice, I would of course do the right thing and step down."

Asked what he would do if he were found to have breached the regulations, but not fined, Sir Keir replied: "The penalty for a Covid breach is a fixed penalty notice – I've set out what the position is for that."

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Labour sources told the BBC's political editor Chris Mason, that the party leader sought advice from senior figures within the party before making his statement – there were strongly-held differences of opinion about what he should do, but he decided go with what was his own initial instinct.

His supporters hope, if he's not fined, this will help define Sir Keir in the public's mind, and, as one put it, be a "clear dividing line" with the prime minister.

"He could come to personify what the British people like – decency and fairness," one said, adding, "if he falls he does for Boris as well".

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