THE furious chair of City of Durham Constituency Labour Party has demanded an apology from an MP over his comments about an event at the centre of the so-called "beergate" row.

Sheila Williams has written to Conservative North West Durham MP Richard Holden, who has been vocal in pushing for the Durham Police investigation into alleged breaches of Covid rules by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir was pictured drinking a beer in City of Durham MP Mary Foy’s office after a day of campaigning for the local elections in Durham in April 2021, at a time when Covid rules meant that indoor gatherings were banned except for work purposes.

The event is now subject to an investigation by Durham Police, with Sir Keir announcing he will quit if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice.

Read more: Beergate, Keir Starmer Durham Police investigation explained

In her letter to Mr Holden, Ms Williams accused him of wasting police time. "On or about April 26, as reported in the Daily Mail on April 27, you wrote to the Deputy Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary stating that the City of Durham Labour Party had advertised an 'in person event' in the form of a 'quiz and social' that was to be held on the evening of Friday, April 30 at 7pm," Ms Williams wrote.

The Northern Echo:

"In your letter you speculate, wrongly, that before the event our MP Mary Foy posted online encouragement to members to attend and to drink heavily, linking the event to images of the Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, drinking a beer at Redhills that evening.

"You make reference to Mary Foy’s using the phrase 'have a greasy night' in support of your argument that she called on our members to drink. This was clearly a typographical error and the City of Durham Labour Party pointed this out very shortly after, which you must have seen. You have made a clumsy attempt to persuade the public that the Leader of the Opposition was drinking beer at our event, which does not stand up to even the most superficial examination.

READ MORE: Deputy Durham PCC questioned on Keir Starmer 'beergate' probe

"In effect, you have accused me as chair of the City of Durham Constituency Labour Party and other officers of our party of wilfully and purposefully conspiring to breach the Covid lockdown regulations that existed at that time.

"You, by implication, have accused all of our members who attended that event of breaking the law.

The Northern Echo:

"There is no evidence whatsoever that our party’s fundraising event as held on April 30 was an 'in person event' and you have not referred to any in your letter to the Deputy Chief Constable.

"The initial invitation to the social event on April 30 posted online explicitly states that members should 'check your emails for Zoom link'.

"You have unjustly and unfairly accused me and others of knowingly organising an unlawful in person event in breach of the Covid regulations.

"I must insist that you issue a full and unequivocal apology to me and to all of our members who planned and attended our online social event on April 30. You have smeared my reputation and that of many other innocent people. You must rectify this wrongdoing immediately."

Mr Holden has not responded to The Northern Echo's requests to comment on the letter.

On Monday, Sir Keir said he has “put everything on the line” by promising to step down if he is fined over the event.

Appearing on ITV's Loose Women for the first time, the Labour leader said: “I have put everything on the line because I think that that is the right thing to do.

“That is the complete opposite to the Prime Minister.”

Sir Keir maintained that he did not break the rules in Durham and is “sure” the police will come to the same conclusion.

Told it is not up to him to decide whether he had broken the rules or not, the Opposition Leader replied: “I know that but my instinct, as soon as I knew that Durham had decided they were going to reopen its investigation, in my heart I knew what I was going to say, which is: if I’m wrong and they’ve found I have broken the law then I’ll do the right thing and step down.”


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