Sir Keir Starmer has pulled out of a speaking gig at the Institute for Government as the Beergate row shows no sign of settling down.
The Labour leader would have been expected to take questions from the media as he is investigated by police over the Durham beer-and-curry gathering in April last year.
Labour insists the food was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules despite the ban on indoor socialising.
But the Labour leader was facing calls to answer fresh questions after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.
Conservative universities minister Michelle Donelan accused Sir Keir of hypocrisy having pressured Boris Johnson over Downing Street lockdown breaches, but stopped short at calling for him to resign.
“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.”
“Worse by comparison”
Other Conservative politicians have also resisted the urge to call for his resignation letter.
Speaking on Andrew Neil’s new Channel 4 show, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I don’t think this is the primary issue of our time… unlike the leader of the opposition, I am consistent in my views.”
Leaked WhatsApp messages posted by The Times’ Patrick Maguire shows those among the 2019 intake were also antagonising over the issue.
David Simmonds, the MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said: “The only ‘good’ outcome I can see is if Starmer is fined and doesn’t resign.
“Any other outcome just makes us look worse by comparison.”