Durham police 'pressured' into investigating Starmer over Beergate, Emily Thornberry says

9 May 2022, 19:07 | Updated: 10 May 2022, 00:49

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Shadow minister Emily Thornberry says Durham police "have been put under pressure" to investigate Sir Keir Starmer over alleged lockdown breaches.

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Ms Thornberry told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr she believed officers "have been put under pressure" by "not just the media, Conservative MPs, there's been a campaign".

It comes after the Labour leader said he will do "the right thing and step down" if he is fined over the curry and beer gathering in Durham last year.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner vow to resign if police issue fines over Beergate

READ MORE: Andrew Marr: PM will be laughing with relief over Starmer's Beergate resignation vow

Asked by Andrew if the force is therefore "susceptible to bullying and intimidation", Ms Thornberry added: "They'll have to answer that themselves."

The Shadow Attorney General continued: "There has been systematic pressure and there has also been an enterprise put together by the attack unit at Conservative Party central office - this is not being denied - along with I don't know who in Durham."

When Andrew suggested Durham police would not "be very happy to hear you say that", she said: "Anyone standing back and looking at this with an open mind can see that attempts have been made to put pressure on Durham police.

"Tory MPs have been tweeting at them, writing at them, what is the point in doing that if it isn't to put pressure on them."

Ms Thornberry insisted Sir Keir had not done anything wrong and would therefore not have to resign.

She said: "Keir is putting a line in the sand here and he is behaving in a way which is honest, shows integrity, shows courage and character, I mean in a world of such growing cynicism about politics I think that this is really refreshing.

"When I heard what he said I was actually genuinely quite moved, I thought this is an honest man who is saying ok... if I am fined I will resign and... what a contrast with Boris Johnson."

Earlier, Sir Keir said from the party's London headquarters: "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."

His stance could put pressure on Mr Johnson over his refusal to resign after being fined by police for a lockdown breach.

Questions remain over whether the Labour leader, a former director of public prosecutions, will stand down if police suggest he may have broken the rules but does not issue a fine, as it did with Dominic Cummings.