SIR Keir Starmer has dramatically promised to resign if he is fined by the police for breaking lockdown rules in the so-called ‘beergate’ scandal.

The UK Labour leader said he believed in honour and integrity and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them.

"It's about who I am, what I stand for," he said.

He also said he was “absolutely clear” no laws were broken, and he had simply had something to eat late in the evening while campaigning in last year’s local elections in Durham.

However if he was fined, he “would of course do the right thing and step down”.

He repeatedly contrasted himself with the Prime Minister.

He said: "He's been found guilty. He's been found to have been in breach of the law. The Prime Minister has not stepped down.

"He and others in his party want the public to believe that we're all the same, that we will all act in that way. I'm here to make clear that is not the case."

His deputy, Angela Rayner, later said she would also "do the decent thing and step down" if fined over beergate.

The move is a clear gamble for Mr Starmer abnd Ms Rayner, as their political future is now in the hands of the police.

However Durham Constabulary chose not to fine Boris Johnson's former aide Dominic Cummings for driving during lockdown to Barnard Castle ostensibly to test his eyesight, saying it did not act retrospectively, meaning the force would be breaking with its own past practice to fine Sir Keir.

Nevertheless, Sir Keir's move puts huge pressure on Mr Johnson, who has refused to quit despite being fined for breaking the rules for attending a birthday party in Downing Street, and with the prospect of more fines to come. 

Indeed, the Tory party may well regret promoting the ‘beergate’ incident if Sir Keir emerges with his reputation for honesty enhanced, and the PM looks even shiftier than before.

In a sign of dawning alarm, Tory whips were yesterday reported to be be telling their MPs not to call for Sir Keir's resignation because of the hazard it created for the Prime Minister.

After missing a public appearance earlier in the day, Sir Keir made a public statement and took questions from broadcasters at 4pm.

Referring to the pandemic, he said: “I've always followed the rules. In that time the British people that made heart wrenching sacrifices, people were left desperately lonely. They were separated from family and friends. Tragically, many were unable to see dying loved ones.

“This was a collective sacrifice. People were entitled to expect the politicians would follow the same rules as everyone else.

“When my mother in law passed away suddenly just before the lockdown, my wife and I were unable to provide her father with the support we wanted to afterwards because we followed the rules. Barely a day has passed where we haven't agonised over that decision.

“But we did it because we follow the rules. We all found the rules frustrating at times, and I'm no exception to that. I had to isolate six times during code. It was during COVID pulling me away from my work and the things that I love.

“But I did it because we followed the rules. The idea that I would then casually break those rules is wrong. And frankly, I don't believe those accusing me to feed cynicism, to get the public to believe all politicians are the same.

“I'm here to say that they're not. I believe in honour, integrity, and the principle that those who make the laws must follow them.

“And I believe that politicians who undermine that principle, undermine trust in politics, undermine our democracy and undermine Britain.

“I'm absolutely clear that no laws were broken. They were followed at all times. 

“I simply had something to eat while working late in the evening, because any politician would do days before an election.

“But if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice, I would, of course, do the right thing and step down.”

He went on: “This matters. It matters because the British public deserve politicians who think the rules apply to them.

“They deserve politicians who hold themselves to the highest standards. And they deserve politicians who put the country first rather than themselves. They will always, always get that from me.”

Beergate concerns a gathering of Labour activists in Durham in April last year attended by Sir Keir and Ms 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 would be untenable if he was also fined for a lockdown breach.

Labour’s thinking was therefore that Sir Keir would be better off making a virtue out of the situation by promising to resign, rather than waiting for weeks under a cloud.