UK Labour leaders cleared over ‘beergate’ meal with team

LONDON (AP) — Police in England said Friday they won’t fine the two top leaders of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party over a curry-and-beer meal with colleagues last year while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.

The local police force in the city of Durham said that following an investigation, it “will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner both said they would resign if they were fined over the incident, dubbed “beergate” by the media.

Starmer said he and colleagues had a takeout curry and a beer in a lawmaker’s office in northeast England in April 2021 during campaigning for a special election. Rules in place at the time barred indoor social mixing between households. Starmer said no rules were broken because it was part of a workday.

Police investigators agreed. The Durham force said it had studied “a substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence” and concluded “that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.”

The force said none of the 17 people present would be fined.

Starmer contrasted his promise to resign if fined with the behavior of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who refused to quit after he was fined 50 pounds ($61) by police for attending a party in his office in 2020 that broke lockdown rules.

“People said to me I was taking a risk by saying I would step down if I was fined,” Starmer told reporters at a news conference. “But it was never about that. For me, it’s a matter of principle. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that those who make the law can’t break the law.”

Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday after “partygate” and other government scandals led his Conservative Party to revolt.

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