On May 22, news broke of allegations that top government aid and adviser, Dominic Cummings flouted lockdown rules whilst travelling over 260 miles to his Parents and Family estate in Durham in March. Various eye-witness reports had placed Mr Cummings in Durham since March 31st and was said to be self-isolating with symptoms of Coronavirus, having travelled to Durham with his wife and child, whilst his wife had symptoms of COVID-19.
Since Government guidelines clearly state that if a member of the household shows even the slightest sign of Coronavirus symptoms, this was a clear violation of lockdown rules.
Harlow MP, Robert Halfon was quick to rally to the defence of Mr Cummings in a tweet:
Ill couple drive 260+ miles to ensure that their small child can be looked after properly. In some quarters this is regarded as crime of the century. Is this really the kind of country we are?
— Robert Halfon MP -Working Hard for Harlow- (@halfon4harlowMP) May 23, 2020
Many Harlow resident’s and members of the local Labour party were upset with Mr Halfon’s decision to defend Mr Cummings’.
Councillor Phil Waite replied to Mr Halfon’s Tweet stating:
So are you saying we should all break the rules to make our lives easier. Just the kind of double standards which seem to be standard in Number 10 clearly rubbing off on you #Dissapointing
— Phil Waite (@PhilWaiteHw) May 23, 2020
Harlow Labour Party tweeted:
Harlow's Tory MP Robert Halfon is excusing COVID-infected Cummings' clear violation of lockdown measures put in place by HIS government and placing lives at risk. This is outrageous when so many people have been following the rules. Is this really the kind of MP we have? https://t.co/j4iDA0OZdy
— Harlow Labour Party #StayHome #SaveLives (@HarlowLabour) May 23, 2020
Harlow District Council’s Labour Leader and Bush Fair Councillor, Mark Ingall, also slammed Mr Halfon:
Harlow's MP shows dangerous lack of judgement.
Robert Halfon sees no problem with Cummings' choice to drive 250 miles while infected with Covid, risking spreading the disease & in direct contravention of government's lock down rules which so many Harlow residents were following. pic.twitter.com/GMkqrK4QaL
— Mark Ingall representing Bush Fair (@cllringall) May 23, 2020
It later emerged that Mr Cummings was spotted a second time, this time 30 miles away from Durham taking a trip to Barnard Castle.
Cllr Ingall, responded to this and called for the PM’s special adviser to be sacked.
Mr Halfon was forced to see his erroneous judgement and has since apologised for his defence of Mr Cummings.
A Harlow Labour spokesperson has since responded to the media accordingly:
“While we welcome the news Robert Halfon has now withdrawn his support for the untenable actions for Dominic Cummings, his initial supportive comments brings into question his judgement and demonstrates just how out of touch he is with local anger over this matter.
“Like millions in this country, the people of Harlow have made extraordinary sacrifices during the lockdown. Families have been forced apart, sometimes in the most tragic of circumstances. They stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
“The British people were looking for at least an apology from Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown at his press conference yesterday. They got none.
“The message from this Government is clear: it’s one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else.”
Mr Halfon has since had opportunities to publicly question the Prime Minister over his lack of acknowledgement or action over Mr Cummings’ clear violation of lockdown rules, despite the special adviser being involved in the rule making decisions during the Coronavirus outbreak.
After watching Mr Halfon’s lack of challenge during a special Commons Liaison Committee, Staple Tye & Harlow Labour Councillor Stefan Mullard tweeted :
Today @halfon4harlowMP had a chance to question the Prime Minister directly about Mr Cummings on behalf of the people of #harlow. Low and behold he remained silent. Shame on you! Going to be #blockedbyhalfon
— Cllr Stefan Mullard (@stuffand) May 27, 2020
More than 44 Tory MPs have now called for the resignation of Mr Cummings.