Beergate, parties that never happened and a Tory local elections hangover

Elliot Chappell
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Stories of Keir Starmer breaking Covid rules continue to drag on. Reports of his visit to Durham got an update over the weekend in the form of a leaked memo showing that the curry was a pre-planned event. Lisa Nandy had a pithy response ready to go on Sunday morning: “It was a work visit, which is always planned. We don’t just wander around the country trying to make speeches.” The Shadow Levelling Up Secretary added: “We plan out a visit in advance and that included a few times during the day when the people on that visit will have stopped to eat.”

Politico had a new scoop this morning: that the Labour leader’s office invited staffers to a Christmas party in December 2020 – but that the gathering was cancelled, and so therefore never took place, when London went into Tier 3 restrictions. A LOTO spokesperson told LabourList: “The event was planned, restrictions changed, the event was cancelled, because Labour sticks to the rules.” The accusation is that the event would have broken Tier 2 rules as well, as the rule of six was in place at the time. A Labour source said it would have seen a group of up to 40 people gathered at the same venue in separate groups of six.

The police will obviously not investigate a party that did not happen. So nothing particularly has changed since last week – when the police said they would look again at the Durham trip. But Tory commentators are more than happy to discuss ‘beergate’ rather than their recent electoral hammering. ICYMI, the Conservatives lost 487 seats on Thursday while Labour gained 108. Take a look here at which authorites Labour gained and lost. And the Lib Dems got 223 new councillors (is this that Lib Dem fight back we’ve heard so much about for so long?).

While ‘beergate’ might remain on the tip of the tongue for many Tories rolled out in front of the press over the next couple of weeks, this can only be a short-term strategy, however. Polling by Opinium showed that the most important reason people who backed the Tories in 2019 decided not to do so again last week was the cost of living. Spiralling costs show no sign of abating – the Bank of England said on Friday that inflation will hit 10% this year. So, while curry-based shenanigans might provide the Tories (and, in particular, Boris Johnson) some brief respite from a bad set of local elections, the Tories face problems regardless.

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