Schadenfreude is a funny thing. Once it was Labour laughing at Boris Johnson dodging questions about food and drink: now it's their turn to face them too. Sir Keir Starmer had a somewhat excruciating appearance on this morning's Today programme when he was asked repeatedly about his attendance at a work event in April 2021, at which the Labour leader was photographed holding a beer. Four times the Labour leader was asked by Martha Kearney about whether Durham Police had been in touch with him about the gathering; four times he dodged the question.
Starmer claimed that the picture was taken before 10 p.m and that thereafter he and other Labour campaigners resumed their campaigning efforts. What exactly were they doing that late – stuffing letters perhaps? Starmer wouldn't say. Below is a transcript of the interview between the Labour leader and Kearney on Radio 4 this morning.
MK: 'It's a long-running issue about whether you broke the rules during lockdown. I just wondered if you could clear up something for us. Has there been any contact with you or your office from Durham Police since Conservative MPs called for inquiries to be reopened?'
KS: 'We were working in the office, it was just before elections, we were busy, we paused for food. No party, no rules were broken, that is the long and the short of it. All that's happened in the last week is that with local elections on the horizon, Conservative MPs have chosen to chuck mud and you can see why they're doing it–
MK: 'Well they may well but if you could shed some light on it. I mean you're someone known for your questioning of Boris John in the House of Commons about these kind of issues and I note that you haven't answered my question which is about contact with Durham Police. Has there been any contact with you or the office in recent weeks?'
KS: 'The police looked at this months ago and came to a clear conclusion which is that no rules were broken. And that’s because no rules were broken.'
MK: 'Not quite what I asked – I just wondered if they had been back in touch since the local MP has been raising questions about it.'
KS: 'Well look they’ve already concluded their investigation, no rules were broken and this is simply being whipped up as mud-slinging by the Tories...'
MK: 'Well you must remember if the police rang up your office?'
KS: 'If the Conservative Party put as much effort into answering the question "How are you going to help people with their energy bills?" as they’re putting into this mudslinging, they’d actually do a service for millions of people who are really worried about their energy bills, this is–'
MK: 'But by not answering questions like mine, are you not adding to the clouds of doubt around this?'
KS: 'Well there's just – we were working, we stopped for food, no party, no rules were broken. I don't know what I can add to that.'
MK: 'And you went back to work, did you, after the beer?'
KS: 'Yes, and the idea that nobody works after 10 o'clock at night is absurd.'
How curious that Starmer repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether Durham Police have contacted his office again – if they haven’t then he’s just given the story new legs for no reason whatsoever.