By Mark Ingall,

Many Harlow residents will feel disgusted by the Prime Minister’s press conference last night. It was a rambling, illogical car crash. In doubling down on the indefensible he avoided answering questions and tried to rewrite history. Dominic Cummings’ act of flagrant disregard became one of “responsibility”, his selfishness compounded by dishonesty became an act of “integrity”. And why? Because with a middle finger firmly extended to Harlow residents, Mr Johnson made it clear that the rules he required them to follow didn’t apply to him or his friends in Parliament.

Does this matter, after all it’s only politics? Well, yes it does. The inevitable result of this debacle is that as the already confused messaging around lockdown worsens, more people will decide that it’s ok to travel and meet friends and family and the virus will begin to spread again, putting the lives of thousands at risk.

Harlow Council has worked hard, doing everything it can to protect residents and staff by fully implementing the lockdown, reducing services to an essential core to release staff to coordinate and implement Government support measures. The Hub set up to deliver food and medicines to those who were shielding has made thousands of deliveries. The Council have disbursed millions of pounds in small business grants quickly and efficiently. Most importantly we have played our part, working on a cross party basis, to deliver the “Stay at home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives” message. All this is now in danger of being undermined.

Police have said this incident now makes it impossible to enforce social distancing. I know that it will make it that much harder to encourage Harlow residents to stay safe by following the government’s instructions. We are over the highest point of infection, but Covid is still very much present in our communities and will quickly spread again to a second, possibly more devastating spike, if the lockdown is abandoned. We must continue to socially isolate if we are to minimise further tragedy.

Your readers will know that far from playing politics with this pandemic, I have frequently worked on a cross party basis with the Conservative opposition and our MP to make clear the Government’s lock down instructions. Robert Halfon gained much credit by apologising yesterday for having publicly defended Dominic Cummings. I now ask him to join with me to urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his poor choice, to sack Mr Cummings and provide a clear and consistent message that the sacrifices made to defeat the virus are sacrifices that must be made by all.

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