Questions Durham Police Should Ask Keir Starmer
As the Guardian reports that detectives investigating Keir Starmer’s beergate session are considering interviewing the Labour leader face-to-face and questionnaires are expected to go out to those who were present for the takeaway curry and beer, it is worth considering some of the questions the police should be asking.
The narrative on the legalities has been much argued on Twitter by lawyers, there are some underlying commonsense questions that Starmer should answer:
The police will want to establish the timeline and cicumstances.
- What time did Starmer arrive at and leave the event? If his police protection car was pictured there at 11pm, it suggests he stayed at least as late as 11pm. That is hours after his diary shows his final work engagement.
- Will the two protection officers who accompanied him be authorised to provide statements? Will they supply any contemporaneous written records of his movements to give an accurate and independent account?
- Who does Starmer say was there? He knew that Rayner was there yet said nothing about that for months when both were asked about it in on the record in interviews. Was anyone else there we don’t know about?
- How many people were actually there? 15 as now suggested? 30 as previously widely reported? Or 6 as Starmer himself originally suggested?
- What time did everyone else leave the gathering – did it stretch on further?
- Why, when we know food was available at the hotel and at other Covid-safe options, didn’t he consider them or was this a regular practice on Labour campaigns?
- What was the process around ordering food and alcohol? Who did it, who paid, was it properly declared as an election expense?
- What work was Starmer doing whilst eating? Or did he stop working to eat?
- Why was his attendance in Durham necessary at all? If, as he claimed, he was on his laptop making calls over Zoom, recording video messages, approving documents and dealing with emails, why did he have to be in Durham?
- What had to be done at the Durham Miners Hall that could not reasonably have been done in his suite in the Radisson Hotel?
- Was it reasonably necessary for work to stand around drinking beer?
- Why was it necessary, as per witnesses quoted in the Sunday Times, for the local MP Mary Foy and her staff to be drinking with his team for hours?
- Were people, as eyewitnesses claim, drunk at the event?
- How many beers* or other alcoholic drinks were consumed by the group, if he was simply pausing for a food break, why was 80 minutes scheduled for dinner in his diary/ops note?
- Are there any other similar events that should be reviewed?
- Crucially – if his defence is that he was working, how can he show he ‘went back to work’ as claimed?
His personal protection officers will not want to perjure themselves. They are not going to risk their pensions to cover for Starmer drinking a beer. The former Director of Police Prosecutions will know that what starts with a police interview can end up with the evidence going to Court. These are very high stakes: if Durham police decide not to act and there were to be a complaint to the Independent Office of Police Conduct, Starmer could end up repeating this statement in Court. Of course there is nothing stopping journalists asking these questions, though of course they won’t be answered under a police caution.
*Election expenses are carefully recorded, so the evidence of a purchase receipt should properly have been kept and provided to the Electoral Commission.