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Angela Rayner defends Keir Starmer over sleaze claim he used office ‘for party political Zooms’

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Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was forced to defend party boss Sir Keir Starmer today after he was accused of breaking the same parliamentary sleaze rules as Geoffrey Cox.

Sir Keir has been accused of using his House Commons office for party political campaigning via Zoom, in ‘Call Keir’ chats with activists.

Critics claim the calls contravene the same parliamentary rules that Sir Geoffrey Cox is accused of breaking when he carried out a remote court hearing for a legal case he was working on in the Caribbean.

The former attorney general is under fire for spending weeks working as a high-ranking lawyer in the Caribbean while Parliament has been sitting, apparently with the approval of the Tory Party

Under Parliamentary rules offices are not allowed to be used for work not linked to politicians’ roles as constituency MPs, be it paid or party political.

Ms Rayner also faced questions over Sir Keir earning £100,000 in legal fees since entering Parliament in 2015. 

But in a heated exchange on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme today, Ms Rayner said:  ‘I do not accept the premise that what (Sir) Geoffrey Cox was doing, advising a tax haven which is described by the Government as corrupt and using his office to do that, in any way, shape or form the same as Keir Starmer doing some legal work when he was first an MP, that is not the same.’

Sir Keir has been accused of using his House Commons office for party political campaigning via Zoom, in 'Call Keir' chats with activists.

Sir Keir has been accused of using his House Commons office for party political campaigning via Zoom, in ‘Call Keir’ chats with activists. 

But in a heated exchange on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme today, Ms Rayner said: 'I do not accept the premise that what (Sir) Geoffrey Cox was doing ... (is) in any way, shape or form the same as Keir Starmer'

But in a heated exchange on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme today, Ms Rayner said: ‘I do not accept the premise that what (Sir) Geoffrey Cox was doing … (is) in any way, shape or form the same as Keir Starmer’

She went on: ‘We’ve said that we’d set up a commission for integrity and ethics to make sure that it’s fit for purpose so that we’re always working in the interests of the British public.

‘We’ve said that we’d ban second jobs but there will be some areas like where we’ve got an A&E doctor that’s practising at the moment, so that they can continue to do that because they need that for their professional practice.’

She added: ‘Sleaze after sleaze, corruption after corruption, we’ve got to end this now because it really undermines public trust and confidence in our Government.’

 The Labour leader was pictured in his Westminster HQ launching a programme of ‘virtual public meetings’ last year.

According to party supporters, that first event, in spring 2020, was followed by a second ‘Call Keir’ meeting in the Labour leader’s office in October last year.

The programme of hour-long Zoom meetings was advertised on the Labour Party website as events where ‘Keir Starmer will listen to and answer questions from the public’.

However, the Commons code of conduct states that ‘Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties’.

Last night, Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be angry that facilities they have funded are being used for party political purposes.

Politicians need to remember that they serve at the electorate’s pleasure and should not abuse voters’ and taxpayers’ trust.

The rules must apply equally to all members, regardless of rank, and if broken appropriate punishments should be handed down.’

But Labour stressed that the first event was held at the height of the original Covid lockdown in 2020, and said: ‘There have been no rules broken. Engaging with the public is a fundamental part of leading Her Majesty’s Opposition.’ke

Last week, barrister Sir Keir faced claims that he did not take a lucrative second job at law firm Mischon de Reya in 2017 because then leader Jeremy Corbyn had told him not to. But Sir Keir’s office has insisted he himself took the decision not to take the job.

Meanwhile, Labour has accused Boris Johnson of ‘running away again’ from sleaze allegations by stifling further debate on the damning standards report that he tried to block.

Last week, barrister Sir Keir faced claims that he did not take a lucrative second job at law firm Mischon de Reya in 2017 because then leader Jeremy Corbyn had told him not to. Pictured on November 8 in the House of Commons

Last week, barrister Sir Keir faced claims that he did not take a lucrative second job at law firm Mischon de Reya in 2017 because then leader Jeremy Corbyn had told him not to. Pictured on November 8 in the House of Commons

MPs are tomorrow expected to approve the Standards Committee report that found senior Tory Owen Paterson guilty of paid advocacy and called for Mr Paterson, who has now quit as an MP, to be suspended from the House for 30 days.

The move would complete the embarrassing U-turn for Mr Johnson after his bid to block the Paterson report collapsed ten days ago.

But Labour protested that the move was scheduled for the very end of proceedings tomorrow with probably no time for debate.



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