Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to quit as leader of the Labour party if he is fined for breaking coronavirus restrictions by police who are investigating an evening meal in April last year.

The opposition leader is under investigation by Durham police over allegations that restrictions were broken during a campaign event that he attended where dinner was served. Starmer was photographed with a beer.

“If I am given a fixed penalty notice I will do the right thing and step down,” Starmer said on Monday. “I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, also announced she would resign if issued a fixed penalty notice.

Both Starmer and Rayner have insisted that no Covid laws or rules were broken during the event and were confident that the police would not issue fines.

Starmer made the statement following days of pressure over the so-called “beergate” scandal, which has prompted the biggest crisis of his leadership to date. He has faced calls to explain the event following revelations that curry and beer were ordered at a time when indoor socialising was forbidden.

Labour has highlighted that under Covid rules at the time indoor gatherings that were “reasonably necessary” for work purposes were exempted from restrictions.

The party’s position has been undermined, however, by a leaked memo to the Mail on Sunday, which suggested the dinner was pre-planned. A whistleblower also told Politico that the event “crossed the line” of what was acceptable and alleged that some staffers present were drinking heavily.

Labour also initially denied that Rayner was present at the Durham gathering, then admitted that she was.

Those who have spoken to the Labour leader about the police probe say he was certain he would not be fined. “All the advice he is getting is that he didn’t break rules and that the police will confirm that,” one ally said.

Starmer drew a distinction with prime minister Boris Johnson, who has rejected calls to resign after being fined by police for breaching Covid lockdown rules at his surprise birthday party in Downing Street.

“I’m very different to the prime minister in this regard,” he told journalists. “He and others in his party want us to believe that we are all the same . . . I’m here to show you that is not the case.”

Starmer called on Johnson to resign as soon as the Met police opened an investigation into rule-breaking parties across Whitehall. When asked whether he should follow his advice to the prime minister, he replied, “I am here to make it clear we’re [politicians] are not all the same.”

He declined to say whether he would quit if Durham police found he had breached coronavirus rules, but did not issue a fine.

The Conservative party declined to comment, noting that the police investigation into Starmer was still under way.

Starmer sought advice on Monday from a variety of senior figures within his party over whether to make the pledge to resign if fined. But he was convinced it would differentiate him and the prime minister.

One Starmer ally said, “he feels strongly that rulemakers can’t break rules and his own integrity in that respect is very important to him. He does not think he is anywhere near the same category as Johnson but that cannot make him an exception. He has set the bar high and has to be bound by the same standard.”

According to the pollster YouGov, 48 per cent if Britons said Starmer should resign if he is fined but only 30 per cent believed he had broken restrictions.

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