‘Treat us all the same’: Woman, 35, who held a lockdown-busting memorial in November 2020 before being retrospectively fined £10,000 by Durham police demands Keir Starmer faces punishment over ‘Beergate’
- Vicki Hutchinson, 35, was given retrospective £10,000 fine by Durham Police
- She organised a tribute event in a field November 2020, during the pandemic
- She says if he’s found to have broken Covid rules, Keir Starmer should be fined
A woman given a retrospective £10,000 fine by Durham police for organising a balloon-releasing memorial during the pandemic says Sir Keir Starmer should also be hit with a financial penalty if he is found to have broken Covid rules.
Vicki Hutchinson voiced fury at photographs of the Labour leader swigging beer and chatting to party officials during a visit to Durham last April and urged police to ‘treat us all the same’.
The 35-year-old, from Peterlee in County Durham, organised her event in a field in November 2020 as a tribute to her father-in-law Ian Stephenson, a former miner who died from Covid-19.
Vicki Hutchinson voiced fury at photographs of the Labour leader swigging beer and chatting to party officials during a visit to Durham last April and urged police to ‘treat us all the same’
Dozens of well-wishers attended, and it was later claimed that many people did not keep apart or wear masks.
The police were not present but launched a retrospective investigation after a complaint.
Ms Hutchinson, a tanning salon owner, was initially fined £10,000 but this was reduced to £500 at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on April 23 last year – a week before Sir Keir’s ‘Beergate’ curry.
Her case is relevant as Durham Constabulary, which is investigating the event, has suggested it does not issue retrospective fines.
Sir Keir was careful to say last week that he would resign as Labour leader if he was issued with a fine for breaching Covid rules during last year’s campaigning trip.
Sir Keir was careful to say last week that he would resign as Labour leader if he was issued with a fine for breaching Covid rules during last year’s campaigning trip
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Ms Hutchinson described Sir Keir’s behaviour as ‘disgusting’, adding: ‘I was given 30 days to pay the £10,000. People are going to look now and say, ‘Well, how can she get that and he doesn’t get it?’
‘He is no different from any other member of the public. I just don’t understand why he wasn’t investigated in the first place, nor do I understand why he shouldn’t get a fine like me. I only own a sunbed shop and they were expecting me to pay £10,000.
‘I don’t want people to think I did nothing wrong, because I did. But at the time you don’t think. You’ve just lost someone and you don’t think.
‘I didn’t ask anyone to bring alcohol – we weren’t drinking and having food. We released balloons and within 20 minutes we went.’
She said her late father-in-law – a lifelong Labour voter – would have been enraged by the pictures of Sir Keir’s gathering at Durham Miners Hall.
Labour insists no rules were broken and that Sir Keir (pictured this week) was working and ate a takeaway ‘between work demands’
‘He would get extremely angry if he saw me get fined for balloon-releasing while he [Starmer] was having a party,’ she added.
The MoS last week revealed a bombshell Labour Party memo that shattered Sir Keir’s version of events over Beergate and showed the gathering had been planned in advance.
The operational note detailed that an 80-minute slot was set aside for ‘dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy’, the local Durham Labour MP.
Labour insists no rules were broken and that Sir Keir was working and ate a takeaway ‘between work demands’.
Last night Richard Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, said: ‘The rules need to apply the same for Sir Keir Starmer as for Vicki Hutchinson, the Prime Minister and everyone else.’
Labour’s ‘Beergate’ scandal deepens amid claims Angela Rayner is being ‘thrown to the wolves’ as party insiders reveal they are yet to find ANY evidence she returned to work after the notorious Durham curry event
By Brendan Carlin for the Mail on Sunday
Labour’s Beergate row deepened last night amid claims that Angela Rayner was facing a bid to ‘throw her to the wolves’ over the lockdown drink and curry in Durham.
A party insider told The Mail on Sunday that an audit of emails, WhatsApp chats and video edits had so far provided no evidence that the party’s deputy leader had returned to work after the event.
But earlier this week, Labour sources briefed that the same audit – to be provided to Durham police – would show that Sir Keir’s team had gone back to work after the curry.
Labour’s Beergate row deepened last night amid claims that Angela Rayner (pictured in November) was facing a bid to ‘throw her to the wolves’ over the lockdown drink and curry in Durham
It comes just days after both politicians promised to resign if police fined them over the controversial gathering on April 30 last year when indoor socialising was illegal.
And party insiders said it would be ironic if Ms Rayner was the one to lose her job over Beergate as until a few weeks ago, Labour had denied she had even been present at the event which took place in the run-up to the Hartlepool by-election.
But last night, one senior Labour MP raised suspicions that someone was ‘trying to dump’ on Ms Rayner.
He said: ‘This feels very much like someone is preparing to throw the deputy leader to the wolves over this.
Starmer loyalists stressed that despite the ‘fraught’ relationship between the party and his deputy, Sir Keir’s office was not trying to shift any blame on to Ms Rayner. Sir Keir pictured this week
‘If there’s a problem with this event in Durham, it can’t be right to focus the blame on Angela Rayner – Sir Keir was there too.’
Starmer loyalists stressed that despite the ‘fraught’ relationship between the party and his deputy, Sir Keir’s office was not trying to shift any blame on to Ms Rayner.
The defence that Sir Keir and the Labour team carried on working after the curry at Durham Miners Hall has become key to Labour’s claim that no rules were broken .
Last night, a Labour spokesperson said: ‘Angela has made no secret of the fact that she was there with Keir for campaign events, and no rules were broken.’
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