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Barry Gardiner 'wrong' to break social distancing rules at Black Lives Matter rally, says Keir Starmer

Labour MP Barry Gardiner (Credit: PA)

2 min read

Labour MP Barry Gardiner was wrong to break social distancing guidelines while attending a Black Lives Matter rally, party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The former frontbencher, who was sacked when Sir Keir took office in April, was rebuked by senior party figures after he revealed he had failed to keep two metres apart from others at the demonstration in central London last week. 

The Labour leader told his inaugural LBC phone-in show on Monday that Mr Gardiner's actions were "wrong" and that politicians should set an example to the public.

"No he shouldn’t have done it, it was wrong to do it," Sir Keir said. 

"If you're a member of Parliament you lead by example and that means we maintain social distancing in accordance with the government's guidance."

It comes after Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said Mr Gardiner had acted dangerously, telling Sky News: "I don’t think it was right...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.”

Ms Nandy told the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday that she was “very proud of those young people who are coming out and speaking up” at the protests, but urged them to maintain social distancing.

“I think it requires you to take an active stance – you cannot be silent in the face of racism and police brutality,” she added.

Mr Gardiner published a statement on his website following the backlash, 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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