UK Labour leader says he’ll quit if fined for office beer

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Labour leader Keir Starmer makes a statement at Labour Party headquarters in London, Monday, May 9, 2022. Starmer has said he will do the “right thing” and step down if he is fined by police for breaking Covid regulations rules at Labour Party offices in Durham last year. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The leader of Britain’s main opposition party said Monday that he will resign if he is fined by police for having a beer and food with colleagues while the U.K. was under coronavirus restrictions.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has acknowledged having a takeout curry and a beer in a lawmaker’s office in northeast England in April 2021. Starmer insists the meal, which took place during campaigning for a special election, was part of a workday and broke no rules.

After days of headlines about the story in Conservative-supporting newspapers, the local police force has said it will investigate.

Starmer said Monday he was “absolutely clear that no laws were broken.”

“They were followed at all times. I simply had something to eat whilst working late in the evening, as any politician would do days before an election,” he said. “But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice I would, of course, do the right thing and step down.”

Starmer accused those attacking him of “trying to feed cynicism, so the public to believe all politicians are the same.”

Conservatives accuse Starmer of hypocrisy because he has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign over lockdown-breaching parties in government offices. Johnson was fined 50 pounds ($62) by police for attending his own surprise birthday party in 10 Downing Street in June 2020 when lockdown rules barred social gatherings.

Johnson has apologized but denies knowingly breaking the rules. He faces the possibility of more fines over other parties and a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled lawmakers about his behavior.

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