The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has said he was not breaching the rules in a photograph of him drinking a beer with staff in a constituency office last year, and that there was “no comparison” with the prime minister’s recent conduct.
The image, captured through the window of a building in Durham in the run up to last year’s Hartlepool byelection, shows Starmer drinking a bottle of beer and standing close to two people, while another two people can be seen in the background.
It was first published last spring, when indoor mixing between different households was not allowed except for work, but the picture has been republished by some media in the wake of a slew of revelations about apparent rule-breaking parties at No 10.
Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Starmer said: “I was in a constituency office just days before the election. We were very busy. We were working in the office.
“We stopped for something to eat and then we carried on working. No party, no breach of the rules and absolutely no comparison with the prime minister.”
He added: “It was perfectly lawful to meet for work, which is what we were doing. The party that was put to the prime minister on Wednesday happened because an invitation was sent to 100 people saying ‘let’s have some socially distant drinks in the garden and bring your own booze’. There is simply no comparison.”
Starmer reiterated hat Johnson must resign in the public interest, saying he had “lost all authority”. He also told the prime minister that he should follow the science when it came to lifting plan B Covid measures and that he should not do it because he was “in a real mess and he’s desperately trying to get out of it”.
Starmer said he hoped the restrictions could be lifted as soon as possible but Labour would vote to lift them only if it was the right thing to do. “We’ll be led by the science as we always have been, not by the politics of propping up a broken prime minister,” he said.
In the Mail on Sunday, the Conservative MPs Andrew Bridgen and Iain Duncan Smith accused Labour of hypocrisy over the picture of Starmer. Duncan Smith said the Labour leader should apologise while Bridgen said he should refer himself and his colleagues in the photograph for investigation.