DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Keir Starmer’s real crime is screaming hypocrisy
In a statement which combined lawyerly weasel words with trademark sanctimony, Sir Keir Starmer pledged to resign if issued with a fixed penalty notice over Beergate.
Superficially of course, he appears to be doing the decent thing, though frankly, he didn’t have much choice.
The Labour leader was so hectoringly adamant that Boris Johnson should have resigned merely for being investigated by the police, that if he himself were fined his position would become untenable.
However, as so often with lawyers, he left himself a loophole.
Keir Starmer has pledged to resign if issued with a fixed penalty notice over Beergate.
Durham police have consistently said it is not their policy to issue Covid penalties retrospectively, which is why they didn’t sanction Dominic Cummings over his rule-busting Barnard Castle adventure.
So the chances that Sir Keir will be penalised are slim.
But would he quit if found guilty of breaking the law but not fined? This was his answer yesterday: ‘The penalty for a Covid breach is a fixed penalty and I’ve set out the position in relation to that.’
Through the obfuscation, he seems to be arguing that if he’s not fined, he hasn’t broken the rules. Slippery, to say the least. Some might even say dishonest.
Sir Keir’s pledge also puts enormous pressure on Durham Chief Constable Jo Farrell, effectively placing the future of the Labour leadership in her hands.
With the regional police and crime commissioner and local MP both Labour, authorising a fixed penalty would be a bold, but highly dangerous career move.
In the court of public opinion, the jury has already reached its verdict. A major poll yesterday showed people believe strongly that if Sir Keir has broken the rules – fine or no fine – he must go.
Even among Labour voters, only one in three believed he could survive if found guilty of conduct similar to Boris Johnson in the Partygate affair.
Let’s be clear, the Daily Mail doesn’t believe either man should have to go because of the breaches themselves.
They were not deliberately flouting the fiendishly complicated Covid rules, which look more and more preposterous with each passing month.
And the fact we are so bogged down by these matters when there is war in Europe, soaring inflation and a crippling cost of living crisis is simply absurd.
But it is Sir Keir’s fault. By trying to paint himself as a moral paragon and Boris as a habitual liar and rule-breaker, he has been hoist with his own pompous petard.
As one commentator put it, his high horse has become a bucking bronco – and he’s in severe danger of being thrown off.
Far from being transparent, every incriminating fact about his beer and curry bash has had to be dragged out, mainly by this newspaper.
Dissembling over numbers, the lie that deputy leader Angela Rayner (who also now says she will resign if fined) wasn’t there, that this was just a spontaneous work break and not planned have all been exposed.
Then there are new revelations from an insider that no one at the gathering was working and several people were drunk. The booze may not have arrived in a suitcase but there was clearly plenty of it.
Despite the risible nothing-to-see-here bluster of shadow ministers yesterday, Sir Keir is rattled, as shown by the fact he disappeared for most of the day and then scuttled away after making his statement, before too many awkward questions could be asked.
With the demolition of each lie and half-truth his party manufactures to try to extricate him from the mire, the stench of cover-up grows and his claims to be a man of integrity look more and more empty.
His worst crime isn’t breaking Covid rules. It’s screaming, self-righteous hypocrisy.
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