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Andy Burnham tipped to replace Keir Starmer as Beergate row sees Rayner snubbed

NewsAndy Burnham tipped to replace Keir Starmer as Beergate row sees Rayner snubbed

Sir Keir Starmer has frequently demanded the resignation of Boris Johnson after the Prime Minister was fined for being present at a Downing Street party during the first Covid lockdown in 2020. But now the Labour Party leader is coming under mounting pressure himself to quit over a curry and beer gathering in Durham last year. In a televised statement earlier today, he repeatedly denied breaking any Covid laws but committed to doing “the right thing and step down” as Labour leader if he is fined by police over the allegation.

Sir Keir had been a 5/1 shot with bookmaker Ladbrokes last weekend to be replaced as leader of the Opposition this year, but those odds have now shortened dramatically to just 9/4.

Andy Burnham, who has served as Mayor of Greater Manchester since 2017 and held a trio of key roles in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet between 2007 and 2010, has emerged as the 7/2 favourite to take over.

Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting is second favourite to take over with odds of 7/1, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves the 8/1 third favourite.

But perhaps most surprisingly, Sir Keir’s deputy Angela Rayner has been snubbed in the betting, and is only fourth favourite to take over from him with odds of 10/1.

She issued a statement matching Sir Keir’s commitment and insisting she was at the event “working in my capacity as deputy leader and that no rules were broken”.

The deputy Labour leader said: “Eating during a long day’s work was not against the rules.

“We have a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the rules, lied about it and then been fined.

“If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down.”

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During that 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.

Labour has argued the food was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules.

Sir Keir said at Labour’s headquarters in London: “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them and I believe that politicians who undermine that principle, undermine trust in politics, undermine our democracy and undermine Britain.

“I’m absolutely clear that no laws were broken, they were followed at all times, I simply had something to eat while working late in the evening as any politician would do days before an election.

“But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed-penalty notice I would, of course, do the right thing and step down.”

The Labour leader has been under mounting pressure to set out his position, having called for the resignation of Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak after they were fined for a Covid lockdown breach.

In January, Sir Keir said the Prime Minister “needs to do the decent thing and resign” after he became embroiled in the ‘Partygate’ scandal.

Mr Johnson, along with his wife Carrie Johnson and Mr Sunak, received fines for breaking Covid laws, along with dozens others working in Whitehall and Downing Street.

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