Tory MP Bob Seely apologises for breaking lockdown by attending barbecue

6 June 2020, 00:12

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely broke lockdown rules a fortnight ago
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely broke lockdown rules a fortnight ago. Picture: UK Parliament
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Conservative MP Bob Seely has apologised for attending a gathering a fortnight ago despite lockdown measures being in place.

The Isle of Wight MP failed to follow coronavirus lockdown guidance by going to a barbecue hosted by a journalist in the village of Seaview, the Guardian revealed on Friday.

Mr Seely attended the event two weeks ago, despite the government only easing measures at the beginning of this week, which only now means that groups of up to six people can meet in a private garden.

The politician said he was "not expecting" other people to be present when he met with the "acquaintance" to discuss the trial of the NHS contact tracing app on the island.

Mr Seely, who has championed the app, claimed to have thought about leaving but thought that could have been an overreaction.

In a statement issued to his local paper, Mr Seely said: "I apologise because, on balance, I called this wrong. It would have been better to have spoken to this person without any others nearby.

"At a sensible distance, we talked in the garden. The others left 15 minutes later, and I stayed to talk with this person for a further 20 mins or so. I then left. I didn't go inside any building; nor did I have a drink. As it was after normal working hours, my girlfriend was with me.

"In the interests of being transparent, I am happy to confirm that, as the Island's MP, I have had a very small number of other such face-to-face conversations - again at a social distance - over recent weeks with other people on the Isle of Wight (such as council, media and public health representatives) when requested.

"I will continue to make myself available in person where it is considered safe and responsible to do so.

"I am aware that this had been a stressful and trying time for many people. I am glad that restrictions have been cautiously eased and we are moving on to a new form of normal.

"Sorry that I got this one wrong."

The Guardian also reported that the chairman of the Brexit party, Richard Tice, along with his partner, the political journalist Isabel Oakeshott, also attended the gathering, hosted by the Spectator magazine’s deputy editor, Freddy Gray.

There was strict guidance in place at the time saying groups from different houses could not mix or visit each other's homes even in gardens.

Mr Seely had previously echoed the government’s stay-at-home message, as well as highlighting warnings against people visiting second homes.

In March, the MP urged new visitors to the Isle of Wight to self-isolate for at least a week, adding: “We need to do what we can to make sure our NHS is not overwhelmed.”

Mr Gray admitted he invited the politician over to discuss the government's contact-tracing app, but said he did not drink any alcohol and “didn’t stay long.”

Mr Tice and Ms Oakeshott did not deny their attendance and made reference to testing their eyesight, which appeared to be a reference to Boris Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings driving to Barnard Castle, near Durham, during lockdown.