A leaked memo drawn up days before the gathering set out plans to “arrange takeaway” from a local restaurant. Sir Keir last week suggested the meal, currently the subject of a police inquiry, had been a spontaneous event. He said: “At some point, this was in the evening, everybody’s hungry and then that takeaway was ordered.” But the memo features a timetable of events including “dinner” from 8.40pm to 10pm, and states a takeaway will be ordered from a curry house called Spice Lounge.
It also says Sir Keir will return to a hotel after 10pm. This appears to contradict his claim that everyone at the gathering “got on with their work” after eating.
The note states at the top: “Covid alert level: National lockdown.”
It makes clear that Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, referred to as AS, was due to attend the event. Labour initially denied that she was present before admitting that she took part.
Conservative MP Richard Holden, whose complaint to Durham Police prompted their investigation, said: “If reports are correct that this was a pre-planned inside drinks and dinner event then it’s clear the Labour leader has been hiding the truth from the British people.
“This isn’t a case of a memory slip -it’s a case of deliberately misleading the people.
“Even after 15 years in politics, I’m shocked that Starmer, Rayner and the Labour Party think that the rules don’t apply to them and that they’re above the law.”
Labour should today be celebrating a strong local elections result which saw them gain 261 council seats and overall control of eight local authorities. There were spectacular victories in the London boroughs of Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet, with Labour snatching overall control from the Conservatives in all three councils.
But as votes were being counted on Friday, Durham Constabulary announced it had launched an investigation into reports the Labour leader and activists enjoyed food and drink inside the office of MP Mary Foy, during a break from campaigning in last April’s Hartlepool by-election
Sir Keir is in a particularly difficult position because he said in January that Boris Johnson “should do the decent thing and resign” simply because police had decided there was enough evidence to justify an investigation into the Prime Minister.
London’s Metropolitan Police later issued fines to Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak for attending a Downing Street birthday party.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.”
In more bad news for Labour, it was confirmed last night that the party has lost control of Tower Hamlets council in London. The Aspire Party, formed by the borough’s mayor, Lutfur Rahman, won a majority of council seats.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats were jubilant after gaining around 190 council seats last week, and overall control of three local authorities including Hull. They also won control of two newly-formed councils.
And in a move likely to add to Tory nerves, Lib Dems have drawn up a “hit list” of ten Conservative MPs who they say would lose their seats if Thursday’s local election results are replicated in a general election.
These include Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, whose constituency of Esher and Walton in Surrey would return a Lib Dem MP. Other Tories under threat include Solicitor General Alex Chalk and former Welsh Secretary John Redwood.