SIR Keir Starmer is considering staking his political future on being cleared of breaking lockdown rules in the so-called ‘beergate’ affair.

The Times reported the UK Labour leader may announce he will resign if he is fined by the police for his part in the event.

The paper said Labour’s thinking was the move would let Sir Keir address the issue head-on and maintain the moral high ground against Boris Johnson, who has refused to go despite being fined.

The Labour leader this morning faced claims he was trying to duck scrutiny after he abruptly pulled out of an event in London where he was due to face media questions.

His withdrawal from the Institute for Government briefing followed the Mail on Sunday publishing a leaked internal Labour memo that cast doubts on his previous version of events.

Beergate concerns a gathering of Labour activists in Durham in April last year attended by Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner at which beer and curry was served.

Labour initially denied Ms Rayner was present, while Sir Keir said there had simply been a food break during the course of a long evening’s work.

The party later admitted Ms Rayner was present and the leaked memo showed the meal had been planned well in advance, and was due to last 80 minutes and form the conclusion to the work event.

At the time of the Durham gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.

Sir Keir previously said no restaurants or pubs were open at the time of the alleged breach so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.

A former director of public prosecutions, he told reporters on Saturday: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.

“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

He also said he would not resign and would lead Labour into the next general election.

After initially discounting complaints, Durham police last week announced it had launched an investigation into the matter, leaving Sir Keir facing a probe of six to eight weeks.

Given Sir Keir has repeatedly called for the Prime Minister to quit over his ‘partygate’ fine, the Labour leader’s position could be untenable if he was also fined for a lockdown breach.

The Times said Sir Keir’s allies feared the next two months could be paralysed by the Durham police investigation, and so it would be better to promise to resign if found guilty.

“There’s a clear logic to it,” one supporter said. “It would give him something to say at the dispatch box when Johnson raises it.”

Another supporter said: “He feels a huge sense of honour. He is the real deal. But he is less sure of himself on politics and determining what action would be best for him and the party.”

The Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting this morning staunchly defended Sir Keir in a round of media interviews, but claimed he had “no idea” why he wasn’t at today’s event. Labour HQ also failed to give an explanation, merely saying “plans change”.

Asked about why Sir Keir scrapped his appearance, Mr Streeting told BBC Breakfast: “I have no idea why he cancelled the event and I certainly didn’t ask before I came on because I think it’s such a trivial issue.

“The idea that Keir has been dodging questions… I mean he’s been out all weekend, even after a local election campaign where we did very well, he’s been out thanking Labour teams, particularly in the places that we did particularly well in these elections.”

Mr Streeting added Sir Keir had faced journalists “wherever he’s been”, including as recently as Saturday, adding: “The idea that Keir is somehow ducking scrutiny is simply not true.”

Tory universities minister Michelle Donelan accused Sir Keir of hypocrisy, having pressured Mr Johnson over Downing Street lockdown breaches.

Asked if the Labour leader should resign if fined, she told Sky News: “I think this is a decision for him, he’s going to have to search his soul after making this a top priority over the last few months at the expense of key issues like the rising cost of living, etc, but look, this is a decision for him. My takeaway is that it does smack of sheer hypocrisy.”

Some 46% of Britons believe Sir Keir should resign if he is fined by police, according to a YouGov survey of 1,674 adults over the weekend.That includes 48% of those who voted Labour at the last election, which is higher than those who voted Tory, at 40%.

With the police investigation ongoing, 54% responded that Sir Keir either probably or definitely broke the rules.

Labour MP Mary Foy has also been forced to deny reports that staff were drunk at the event held in the City of Durham MP’s constituency office.

In a statement, she said: “These allegations about my staff are untrue.

“I have already said that I and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit. I do not believe either I or my office staff broke any rules.”

Mr Johnson, his wife, Carrie Johnson, and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, have all been fined by the Metropolitan Police as a result of their attendance at a party in Westminster which is deemed to have broken lockdown rules.

Nicola Sturgeon said the Tory attacks on Sir Keir over the issue were part of a ““massive operation” to divert attention away from Boris Johnson’s “serial breaching” of lockdown rules.

Speaking to the media in Glasgow, the First Minister said she would not comment in detail because of the ongoing police investigation.

But she added: “What I do think is pretty obvious is that there is a massive operation underway on the part of the Conservatives to divert attention from Boris Johnson.

“And not just Boris Johnson’s single breaking of the rules, but what appears to have been a serial breaching of the rules and, of course, Boris Johnson’s inability to be straight with the House of Commons.”