The Labour leader was mocked last night after it emerged that his eve of election message to voters had excluded any reference to Partygate. It comes as pressure is mounting on Durham Police to reopen the investigation into him having a late night beer and takeaway curry with Labour activists and his deputy leader Angela Rayner. But last night Labour dismissed the claim with a source adding: “We are very happy to keep talking about partygate!”
Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt said that the reason for the Labour leader’s change of tack was because of the focus on his own alleged criminal behaviour which had made him “desperate”.
He said: “Starmer was wrong to focus on Partygate instead of more pressing concerns for ordinary voters across the country.
“But the trigger for this change of tactics is questions of his own involvement in potential lockdown breaches with that event in Durham.
“Yesterday he was asked more questions he simply could not answer.
“Starmer was asked four times whether he had been contacted by Durham Police which he couldn’t answer.
“He cannot explain what he did involving work after 10pm on a Friday when he was pictured with the beer.
“He cannot explain the difference between what he did and the Prime Minister and Chancellor [Rishi Sunak] eating cake for which they were fined.
“They said Angela Rayner wasn’t there then admitted she was there.
“Partygate is no longer a tactic because he himself has too many questions to answer.”
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Ashfield Tory MP Lee Anderson added: “Starmer has spent the last two months talking about Partygate. The public are fed up to the back teeth of hearing the same old line and want to hear about policies.
“The penny might have finally dropped for Starmer a day before the local elections but the problem is the Labour Party have no believable policies to talk about.”
Even before the so called “beergate” controversy from his gathering on April 30 last year, Starmer had been facing fierce criticism in his own party for not talking about policies and instead “banging on about Partygate.”
Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy, a former leadership contender, led a revolt in a recent shadow cabinet meeting over his wayward tactics and too much focus on the Prime Minister’s behaviour.
But a Labour spokesman dismissed the idea that Starmer was avoiding Partygate.
He said: “Our campaign has been focused on the Government’s pathetic failures on tackling the cost of living crisis and Labour’s plans to help people with their household bills. It’s the number one issue facing the country and the thing the Tories are desperate to avoid.”
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Polls have revealed that almost six in 10 voters have put the cost of living as their number one issue.
Last week’s Techne UK/ Express tracker poll showed that Labour’s lead dropped a point to 5 percent over the Tories.
And with just 24 hours to go before the local elections, Sir Keir has finally tried to address the issue.
In his pre-poll message he instead promised an emergency cost of living budget.
He said: “Right now people up and down the country are working hard, paying more, but getting less. Prices and taxes are rising, but wages aren’t keeping up.
“The Conservatives are doing nothing to help people now. Instead they’ve made it worse by imposing 15 Tory tax rises – including this month’s national insurance rise on business and working people.
“Labour’s plan to tackle the cost of living crisis puts money back in your pocket. Our call for an emergency budget would mean action now.
“We wouldn’t go ahead with this unfair Conservative tax hike on working people which is the wrong tax at the wrong time.”
He promised to save £600 on fuel bills and provide insulation for homes that need it.