'We should see the same bar for Covid breaches applied to lawmakers by Durham Police as the Met', says Tom Harwood

'Why does Labour argue that context – that this was apparently a work meeting – seems to be more important in the case of Sir Keir Starmer than that of the Prime Minister or the Chancellor?'

Published

To briefly return to Sir Keir Starmer’s beer. Not an egregious breach by any means. But when you listen to how the Labour Leader has been moralising on this issue for the last five months.

Emphasising, as he has, the idea that those who made the rules, voted for the rules, indeed pushed for harsher rules as he did, should be held to the very highest standard… well, then this becomes a legitimate area of inquest.

In Westminster people were shocked to see the Chancellor receive a fixed penalty notice for attending a meeting that included cake in a Tupperware box as lockdown was easing in the summer of 2020.

Not least shocked was the Chancellor himself who had no idea he had done anything wrong.

The Boris fine was less shocking to many as the media have decided that Boris is a wrong’un in any case. But the Chancellor’s fine reveals in a more dispassionate way just how low the bar was for these fixed penalty notices to be issued.

And if that bar is so very low, other issues arise.

As we all remember, in April 2021, the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband.

And Sir Keir Starmer was filmed drinking with members of Durham constituency labour party.

Of course, indoor socialising was banned at the time.

The Labour leader last week spoke movingly in the House of Commons of a man named John Robinson, someone who could not see his partner as they died.

An incredibly emotional story. But one that wasn’t immediately obviously connected to what was being discussed.

No, Starmer ignored the fact that at the time of the event for which Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been fined, it was legal to see dying relatives. Tradespeople had resumed trading, shops had reopened, and Boris Johnson spent that morning at a school, where he was also sung happy birthday and received a cake from pupils and teachers.

None of that context mattered, not to the Met Police, and not to the court of public opinion.

Why then does Labour argue that context – that this was apparently a work meeting – seems to be more important in the case of Sir Keir Starmer than that of the Prime Minister or the Chancellor?

Well, as I was first to report yesterday Durham Constabulary are now reviewing, re-examining, questioning, whatever word you want to use for it – they are asking questions of their investigation team.

Not yet reinvestigating, but as I reported, the questions asked do examine what went on.

These questions, prompted by North West Durham MP Richard Holden, raise promotional material that appeared on Durham Labour Party social media, promoting a Constituency Labour Party ‘quiz and social’ on the night Sir Keir was pictured drinking with the Constituency Labour Party.

Indeed one invitation posted by Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy, encouraged attendees to have a quote ‘greasy night’ – something the Urban Dictionary defines as an evening which involves drinking too much.

These are serious questions, ones that the Labour spin machine tried to bat away yesterday.

If law is to be applied equally, we should see the same bar for Covid breaches applied to lawmakers by Durham Police, as has been applied by the Met.

This is a story about consistency, and justice, and we will follow on this programme with interest.