Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP, has been slammed for deliberately breaking social distancing guidelines to attend the protests in London.
Gardiner, who was the Shadow Secretary for International Trade under Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted on Wednesday that despite social distancing since March, he broke it to join the Black Lives Matter protest “outside Parliament and take a knee with thousands of brave young people calling for Justice.”
Been social distancing since March. Today I broke it to join the #BlackLivesMattter demo outside Parliament and take a knee with thousands of brave young people calling for Justice. pic.twitter.com/1KWZeOPi01
— Barry Gardiner (@BarryGardiner) June 3, 2020
Gardiner was then slammed by other MPs on both sides of the aisle for his irresponsible behaviour. Speaking to Sky News, Lisa Nandy, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, said that it was “quite dangerous to break the social distancing measures”:
I think it was wrong for a member of parliament to be out there overtly saying they were not going to observe social distancing measures. These are the measures that have saved lives and stopped our NHS from being overwhelmed. I hope he has reflected on that and decided to correct that, because we can’t give the impression that social distancing at this stage doesn’t matter. He’s not on the front bench anymore, so I think the best thing to do would be for him to acknowledge he got that wrong and correct it.
The Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan said that Gardiner had “fragrantly flouted the law,” and said that any MP who had been involved in the protests should be “prevented from rejoining this House until they have undergone a period of self-isolation” to keep everyone working in Parliament safe.
In a post on his website, Gardiner “apologised for the hurt [his] failure to observe the rules has caused,” but said that it shouldn’t detract from the George Floyd “protests”:
I know I had an obligation to set an example. The rules are important in overcoming this epidemic and I do not want my action to undermine people’s willingness to maintain social distancing. My obligation as an MP is also to call out racial injustice and to stand in solidarity with the very people who, because of that injustice, are so much more likely to die from coronavirus. The anger generated by my breach of the social distancing rules must not be allowed to detract from the vital message that Black Lives Matter and that we all have an obligation to fight racism. The killing of George Floyd must be a catalyst for action.
Gardiner’s actions are ironic, given that in a letter to his constituents, he criticized the Prime Minister’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, for allegedly breaking the lockdown and social distancing guidelines in order to protect his family. The letter was available on his website until a few days ago, and has since been taken down.
The Metropolitan Police confimed to National File that they would not be investigating Gardiner’s alleged breach.