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Thu, 9 July 2020

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Barry Gardiner rebuked by Labour for breaking social distancing measures at Black Lives Matter protest

Barry Gardiner rebuked by Labour for breaking social distancing measures at Black Lives Matter protest

Labour MP Barry Gardiner has been criticised for not following social distancing rules (PA)

3 min read

Labour MP Barry Gardiner has been rebuked by senior party figures after revealing he was not abiding by social distancing measures at a Black Lives Matter protest.

The former shadow Cabinet minister’s actions were labelled “dangerous” and “wrong” after he posted a pictured of himself at the demonstrations in central London in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in America.

And Mr Gardiner was urged to go into self-isolation by a Tory MP who said he should be prevented from returning to the House of Commons for two weeks.

Asked about his actions on Sky News, Lisa Nandy said: “I don’t think it was right, I think it was quite dangerous to break the social distancing measures.

“And I completely understand why a lot of people are coming out onto the streets of Britain to protest, I’m very proud of them, but social distancing matters.”

The shadow foreign secretary added: “I want to see those young people making their voices heard, I don’t want to see them in hospital struggling to breathe with coronavirus.

“And I think it was wrong for a member of Parliament to be out there saying overtly that he was not going to be observing social distancing measures.” 

And her colleague, shadow justice secretary David Lammy, echoed those comments appearing on ITV’s Peston on Wednesday night.

He said: “It is dangerous and that's why I haven't joined the protests because I don't want to do anything that contributes to loss of life and that's why it's dangerous. 

"But at the same time, the seriousness of this moment, the seriousness of these murders, effectively, of black men in the United States, is a serious business that I am pleased that people are rising up against.”

In a tweet sent on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Gardiner said: "Been social distancing since March.

"Today I broke it to join the Black Lives Matter demo outside Parliament and take a knee with thousands of brave young people calling for justice.”

After he was criticised for risking public health, the Brent North MP replied saying: "Tested negative this week."

But Tory Imran Ahman Khan accused him of having "fragrantly flouted the law" and "boasting that they have broken social distancing measures”.

In the Commons he called on any MPs involved in the protests to be "prevented from rejoining this House until they have undergone a period of self-isolation" for the safety of all those working inside the parliamentary estate.

Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said any member who took part "is putting not only himself or herself at risk, but is putting everyone else at risk as well”, and said they "should act responsibly".

Mr Gardiner later published a statement on his website entitled “why I joined the protest yesterday”, saying the “number of people protesting made it impossible to observe the social distancing rules which I have strictly observed since March”.

He added: “I know how much people have suffered to keep each other safe and I apologise to them for the hurt my failure to observe the rules has caused. 

"On Tuesday evening I received a negative test result. I am therefore confident that I did not infect anyone with whom I came into contact.

“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.”

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