Analysis comment Exclusive

Exclusive: HuffPost publishes that Starmer WAS fined – AFTER story that he wasn’t

Article deleted, but no correction or retraction issued – raising questions about sequence of events in Starmer being ‘cleared’ by Durham Police

Durham Constabulary today issued a press release that Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner and others are not being fined over their ‘beergate’ gathering during lockdown. The announcement was attributed to an exception because the gathering was work-related.

But multiple party and other well-connected sources have said over recent days that Starmer had been fined, with Keir Starmer twice failing to deny it when asked directly – and today’s behaviour by the Huffington Post UK raises further questions. The paper published two stories: one that Starmer had escaped a fine and another that he had been ‘handed a fine’ by police over the incident.

And, curiously, the story that he had been fined was published after the one that he had not:

The second article was soon deleted, but the paper issued no correction or retraction and no mention of any update, amendment or correction appears in the article about Starmer’s ‘avoidance’ of a fine. It essentially behaved as if the article had never existed.

Many have raised concerns that Starmer’s connections to Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, or his Crown Prosecution Service and well-documented Security Service connections may have influenced the decision:

But the Huffington Post was prepared to go to press today with an article that said Starmer had been penalised for his lockdown get-together – an article it would presumably not have prepared without satisfying itself that its sources were solid – but then deleted it.

Was the paper informed that Starmer had been fined and then the fine was withdrawn after the article had been prepared? Or had it prepared two versions in readiness for either event and the wrong one went out? But if that was the case, why would the wrong article go out second?

Skwawkbox contacted both the paper’s political editor Ned Simons and its press office to ask why and how the publication had taken place and then the article was deleted. Neither had responded by the time of publication, so we are unable to say for sure – but there are questions to be answered.

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