Just a few weeks ago Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely was all over the national media after the Island was chosen to trial the Coronavirus Contact Tracing App, but he has now been outed for breaching lockdown rules by attending a barbeque at another person’s house.
After The Guardian broke the story on Friday, Bob Seely admitted visiting a Seaview property with his girlfriend, after being invited by The Spectator magazine’s deputy editor, Freddy Gray, over the May bank holiday weekend.
The Government guidelines at the time were clear, the public should not visit other people’s homes or spend time with people outside their household, other than one person in public spaces such as beaches or parks.
Seely said he was undertaking constituency work in Seaview and agreed to visit someone who wanted to discuss the App.
That someone has turned out to be Gray, who had published an article at the start of May questioning if the Island was the right place to launch the Contact Tracing App. Included in that, Mr Gray said,
“I should admit that I am one of the dreaded ‘DFL’ (Down From London) visitors, whom most Islanders despise.”
Tice and Oakeshott make light of the breach
Also attending the gathering were Brexit party chairman, Richard Tice, and his partner, political journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was staying at what The Guardian reported as her second home on the Island.
In their comments to The Guardian, both Tice and Oakeshott made light of the breach, adding that they regularly tested their eyesight.
Islanders are angry
This has turned into a very large national story, so what do Islanders make of it?
The general feeling by people on the Isle of Wight seems to be one of great anger. With some people who are normally supportive of Seely finding his actions reprehensible.
They have all been unable to see their friends and family during lockdown, so to hear their MP hasn’t been observing the same restrictions, they feel wronged.
Posting this here so I know that @IoWBobSeely has seen it.— Tom Hambley (@Hambletom) June 5, 2020
I have emailed Bob Seely to convey just how angry I am with his hypocritical actions breaking lockdown rules.
I would recommend anyone feeling similarly to do the same.
Also vote @VixL, or honestly just #anyonebutBob pic.twitter.com/K9sQiL5lVT
In response to Dominic Cummings travelling 260 miles to Durham to see his parents during lockdown, Seely had said, “his [Cummings’] explanation seemed entirely reasonable, so I hope we can now move on”.
Mr Seely has today (Saturday) issued a statement in which he apologises for his “lapse in judgement”. But that doesn’t seem to have quelled the situation as can be seen from the 200+ responses to Seely’s tweet.
Please read below. pic.twitter.com/BVw1hEVY9a— Bob Seely MP (@IoWBobSeely) June 6, 2020
“Stay at home” was Seely’s public message
Seely’s previous pinned tweet (the tweet pinned to the top of his Twitter account) was the Stay at Home message, now replaced by his statement above.
This is Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely’s pinned tweet and it says ‘stay home’. The same MP who broke lockdown to go to a BBQ with the @spectator deputy editor and Isabel Oakeshott and Richard Tice. Irony is wasted on Tories like @IoWBobSeely pic.twitter.com/jbqHdEnv1x— Kevin Pascoe #SocialistLabour (@KevinPascoe) June 6, 2020
Calls for resignation
There have been countless calls for Mr Seely’s resignation and a petition has been launched, attracting over 990 signatures at time of publishing.
Below are just a small selection of tweets over the last 24 hours discussing Seely’s actions.
I happened to be in Seaview on constituency work when someone happened to want to talk to me about the app and there happened to be a barbecue and others happened to be there and as it happened to be after hours my girlfriend happened to be with me.— Dominic Minghella (@DMinghella) June 5, 2020
Some big questions from Tice/Oakeshott/Seely/Gray BarBQGate …. Were they all using the Isle of Wight testing app, as they should? Did it register their lockdown busting social? Who can get the data? https://t.co/lvUbpkmHup— Peter Henley (@BBCPeterH) June 6, 2020
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has been caught breaking the lockdown rules at a BBQ in an incident that can only be described as #sausagegate As a fellow candidate in the 2019 GE I ask @IoWBobSeely to consider his position as he has undermined the efforts of the IW to defeat Covid19.— Daryll Pitcher 🇹🇼 (@DaryllPitcher) June 5, 2020
WTH @IoWBobSeely when you replied to my letter re Dominic Cummings by calling for ‘understanding and a sense of forgiveness’ for a one-off error was that because you knew you’d also broken the regulations?— ScrappySPJ (@ScrappySPJ) June 5, 2020
You can expect to receive another angry letter. pic.twitter.com/A2mqYumI6o
Hmm. Why do white middle-aged male Tories not have the same integrity as women?— KT #ExposingHypocrisy Parker (@lunaperla) June 6, 2020
Resigned for breaking lockdown:
Dr Catherine Calderwell (Scotland CMO)
Rosie Duffield (Lab Whip)
Dominic Cummings (Real PM)
Robert Jenrick (CabMin)
Bob Seely (member ForAff SelectCom)
I can’t work out why there isn’t a bigger fuss about Bob Seely. At a BBQ, with his girlfriend, at the house of a third party at his second home, with the Chairman of the Brexit Party and Isabel Oakeshott. Exactly how many lockdown rules do they need to break?— Alistair Barrie (@AlistairBarrie) June 6, 2020
Based on the actions of @IoWBobSeely and the other Seaview second home owners, I’m now allowed to travel to the Isle of Wight and see my parents?— Abigail cooke (@AbigailCooke86) June 6, 2020
New focus for satirical jokesters
Across social media Bob Seely has become the butt of many people’s jokes, spurring creativity from IW Can Depress.
Richard Quigley, Island Labour’s parliamentary candidate in the 2019 general election, told News OnTheWight,
“I’m disappointed more than outraged, disappointed for all of you that did the right thing and stayed home, didn’t see friends, ‘did your duty’ in downloading the app, and followed the advice. You made a difference.
“Thank you for sticking with it, even when those leading us didn’t.”
Green: No wonder Seely refused to condemn Cummings’ behaviour
Vix Lowthion, IW Green Party spokesperson said,
“Islanders will rightly be furious to read that our MP broke lockdown rules through going to a BBQ with journalists at their second home on the Island on Bank Holiday weekend.
“Bob Seely did not accidently trip and fall into a Seaview BBQ. Whether he stayed for one or two sausages is immaterial. He knowingly went with his partner to someone’s else’s home, and stayed for social chit chat. This was completely against the guidelines at the time to only meet one other person in a public park.
“Meanwhile, thousands of his constituents have not seen their own grandchildren, parents and friends. We have followed his government’s guidelines and instructions, because it was our duty and we wanted to protect lives.
“No wonder Mr Seely refused to condemn Dominic Cummings’ behaviour in Durham – because he knew that he had broken the rules too. Bob Seely needs to consider if he believes there is one rule for him and one for the rest of us, and whether those who break the national guidelines should continue to serve as an MP at all.”
LibDem: Bob’s actions showed appalling judgement
Nick Stuart, Leader of the Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats, told News OnTheWight,
“Bob’s a bit of a disappointment and his behaviour and explanation for Barbeque-gate are ridiculous. I won’t call for his resignation as MP as he clearly can’t see why. I’ll just leave it to Islanders who have struggled through this lockdown to make their own judgements. He might have followed the rules on many occasions, but when it suited he was happy to ignore them. No wonder he failed to condemn Dominic Cummings.
“The Public response to this virus has been fantastic with the vast majority following the guidelines in spite of the hardship that has caused to so many people. Bob talks a good game and during the pandemic he has encouraged people to obey lockdown and encouraged second homeowners to obey the guidelines and stay away.
“Bob’s actions however in taking his other half to the second home of visitors, meeting several people and breaking the lockdown legal guidance showed appalling judgement. He then stayed for long enough to spread the virus! I’m sure his pals won’t worry, but I suspect a large number of Islanders will remember his actions over his words.”
Love: Contradicts the Stay at Home message
Another prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2019 general election, Cllr Karl Love, got in touch with News OnTheWight to say,
“During a Zoom meeting of the Coronavirus 19 Support Hubs, in response to my questions about second homeowners visiting the Island, Cllr Clare Mosdell stated, ‘Bob Seely is in weekly meetings with ferry operators and it was not true that second home owners and caravans were coming to the Island and Bob would not lie about this’.
“But here he is a meeting with second home owners and Mr Seely enjoying their company at their second homes? This completely contradicts the message which our Island Tory administration are putting out – Stay at Home and Stay Away from our Island. We will let you know when it’s safe to visit.”
Pugh on Cummings: “Episode is highly regrettable”
After the May bank holiday when it was revealed that Government special advisor, Dominic Cummings, had travelled with his wife and child 260 miles to Durham, and subsequently drove 30miles to Barnard Castle to ‘test his eye sight’, David Pugh, chair of the Isle of Wight Conservative Association, had said,
“I appreciate that this issue has attracted a lot of interest, comment, concern and – in some quarters – anger.
“I think the whole episode is highly regrettable, and I am concerned that the recent statements made by both the PM and Mr Cummings have evidently not brought closure to this matter. We will have to see what the next few days bring us.”
Pugh: “Bob’s swift apology is welcome and allows us to move on”
News OnTheWight asked Mr Pugh for his views on the Seely affair
“As you can imagine, I have spoken with Bob about this. As he has acknowledged, once he realised that other people were there, he should have left – or spoken to this person without any others nearby.Bob has apologised for this lapse in judgment, as reiterated in his subsequent statement today.
“I have not, thus far, been contacted by a single Conservative member about this issue specifically. I have, however, spoken with a few members over the past 24 hours about more general matters and this has, as you would expect, been mentioned.
“The view amongst all I have spoken with is that Bob’s swift apology is welcome and allows us to move on. Having seen first-hand the work that Bob is currently doing in supporting the Island’s response to coronavirus (as referenced in his statement) I have encouraged him to now redouble his efforts on this front.”
News OnTheWight has written to Isle of Wight council leader, Dave Stewart for his reaction and will update once we hear back.
Government Covid-19 guidance: Stay alert and stay safe
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently (video tips).
It is recommended that you maintain at least a two metre gap (about 6.5ft) from people who are not from your household.
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service that can tell if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
11pm 6th June 2020 – Comment from Nick Stuart added
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh