“I didn’t want to help Boris” says Durham student who filmed Starmer drinking beer in lockdown

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A Durham student who sparked a national political scandal around Sir Keir Starmer has said he “didn’t want to help Boris in any way” and that police have not contacted him over what British tabloids have labelled ‘beergate’.

The then third-year student, living in a house in the Viaduct area, spotted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer drinking a San Miguel beer and enjoying an Indian takeaway in the nearby Durham Miners’ Hall during the third national lockdown in April 2021. 

He told Palatinate: “It had the energy of when a boss says at the end of the day ‘you’ve had a good day’s work, let’s get something in to cheer us up, have a few drinks”. 

Starmer was visiting Mary Foy’s office on a trip to the North East as part of the 2021 local elections, which culminated in landmark Conservative victories in the region, with Labour losing control of the local council for the first time in over a century. 

An edited version of the video the Durham student took of this moment, posted on social media earlier this year, sparked months of media speculation over a possible breach of Covid-19 rules.

“I saw something that I thought was an injustice and decided to film it because it made me angry”, explained the student, who wants to remain anonymous. 

“There were such double standards in place. The very people that were pushing for more restrictions weren’t even following them themselves.

I didn’t want to help Boris in any way. The rot was kind of just pervasive throughout all of politics and so I didn’t think anybody should be able to get free from the situation or the effects”.

Durham Constabulary announced in February that, having “reviewed the footage”, no further action would be taken. Despite a sustained campaign of letters and statements from Conservative Ministers and MPs, and after police fines for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for rule-breaking in Downing Street, the local police force once again said that it was “not currently investigating” in a statement last week. 

The student claims Durham Police never contacted him, and it is unclear whether local police have seen the unedited version, which includes sound and is ten seconds longer. 

Durham Constabulary told Palatinate, “we have received a number of recent communications on this subject, which we are considering and will respond in due course.”

Sir Keir said he had not been contacted by Durham police, adding “I think people are just about fed up with the mudslinging that’s going on … we were working, we stopped, we ate. No breach of the rules. No party.”  

Local City of Durham MP Mary Foy, who also features in the video, has criticised the methods of some journalists who had travelled to Durham to find more on the story.

The student himself had mixed feelings about the treatment of the story in tabloid media. “I didn’t want it to be a kind of get out of jail free card for Boris. 

“I’ll be very glad when this story is over”, he concluded.

Palatinate contacted the Labour Party for comment but received no response.

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