Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner have been cleared of breaking lockdown rules on a visit to Durham last year, following a police investigation.

Both had vowed to step down if they were found to have breached regulations during a trip to the city in April 2021, ahead of the Hartlepool by-election.

None of those present at the event, dubbed “beergate”, have been issued with a fine.

Politics latest: ‘Tory ploy’ condemned after Starmer cleared

This is in stark contrast to the 126 fixed-penalty notices by the Metropolitan Police for rule breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson, and then chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined for attending a birthday gathering for the prime minister in June 2020 when indoor mixing was banned.

Responding to the outcome of the Durham police probe, sir keir told a news conference: “People said to me I was taking a risk by saying I would step down if I was fined. But it was never about that.

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Starmer respects police decision

“For me it was a matter of principle. It shouldn’t be controversial to say those who make the law can’t break the law. But we have to set the bar far higher than that.”

Ms Rayner wrote on Twitter: “We’ve always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham.

“The police have completed their investigation and agreed, saying that there is no case to answer.

“Integrity matters in politics. The contrast with the behavior of this disgraced prime minister couldn’t be clearer.”

Sir Keir’s great gamble pays off

The police inquiry hanging over the Labor leader’s head is over: Sir Keir Starmer has been cleared by Durham police.

A beer and a curry in Hartlepool was not a lockdown breach and Sir Keir’s great gamble has paid off.

A week ago a senior Tory suggested to me Boris Johnson could capitalize on Labor chaos if Sir Keir was fined by calling a snap election.

Now Labor are talking about a vote of no confidence after Mr Johnson’s government collapsed.

What a difference a week makes.

Labor MPs say the decision was welcome and expected, but there was a nervousness in the party.

Many lamented the irony that partygate could take down the Labor leader and not Mr Johnson before it had even happened.

One ally almost teared up talking to me about the long wait for Durham police’s decision.

Today the wait is over, Sir Keir and Angela Rayner have been saved and any budding leadership ambitions thwarted for now.

Mr Johnson is on his way out, Sir Keir can capitalize on Tory disarray and the prospect of a summer searching for two leaders has been avoided.

Sir Keir was videoed drinking a bottle of beer over a takeaway curry with colleagues in the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy.

It later emerged Ms Rayner was also at the gathering.

At the time, 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.

Durham Police initially investigated and found there was no evidence of rule-breaking, but looked at the case again following the intervention of North West Durham Tory MP Richard Holden in April.

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‘Not lost a sleepless night over it’

The force said in a statement: “Following the emergence of significant new information, an investigation was launched by Durham Constabulary into a gathering at the Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, Durham on 30th April 2021. That investigation has now concluded.

“A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering.

“Following the application of the evidential Full Code Test, it has been concluded that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.

“Accordingly, Durham Constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken.

“The investigation has been thorough, detailed and proportionate.”

A Tory source said: “People in Durham will be surprised to learn that they were allowed to stand around drinking inside, after working with people from outside their household under COVID restrictions.

“Other forces have obviously taken a different view.

“Of course if Keir Starmer held himself to the standards he demands of others he would have resigned two months ago.”

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Starmer: ‘I would do the right thing’

Meanwhile, Ms Foy told Sky News she was “delighted” by the police findings “but not at all surprised”.

She said: “We knew from the outset that there was no wrongdoing. We hadn’t broken any rules. I am so pleased this has come to an end now.”

“Unfortunately, it has wasted an awful lot of police time. We knew there was no wrongdoing but some politicians have wanted to score political points from this.”

Sir Keir had vowed to do the “right thing” and stand down if he was fined in relation to the gathering.

The move was viewed as a huge gamble, with Sir Keir placing his future in the hands of Durham Police after it was announced officers would reopen an investigation into the event where he drank beer and ate curry.

The Labor leader has consistently denied the gathering was against the rules, arguing that he and those present were working, paused to eat food during a break and then returned to their duties.

Labor has sought to contrast Sir Keir’s actions with those of Boris Johnson, who refused to quit as prime minister after being fined by the Met Police over a gathering in Number 10 in June 2020 to mark his 56th birthday.

The party had expressed confidence that its leader would be clearedwith sources saying they would provide officers with proof that the Durham gathering was a work event.

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