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Coronavirus: Labour MP quits role after lockdown breach

Rosie Duffield

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House of Commons

A Labour MP has apologised and stood down from her frontbench role after admitting breaching lockdown rules.

Rosie Duffield met her partner in her Canterbury constituency for a five-hour walk when he was still living with his wife, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Guidance in place at the time in April banned people socialising with anyone from outside their own household.

The MP said she took responsibility for her actions and would quit her role as an opposition whip in the Commons.

The Mail on Sunday said Ms Duffield and her TV director boyfriend James Routh had gone on the walk at a time when they were not living together and strict controls on people’s movements were in force to prevent the spread of the virus between households.

The newspaper said Mr Routh had also visited the MP at a property she was renting in Canterbury.

‘Difficult situation’

While insisting the pair had observed the two-metre social distancing rule when they met, the MP said she accepted her actions constituted a breach of the guidance at the time.

“My partner and I have been attempting to navigate a difficult personal situation as responsibly as possible,” she said.

“I apologise that during that process, we breached the guidelines. A relationship breakdown is difficult at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

“I hope people can understand why I took the steps I did and know that I take responsibility for the breaches that occurred and for which I apologise.”

The newspaper said Mr Routh, who is understood to have worked on Ms Duffield’s 2017 election campaign, had since separated from his wife and was now living in the MP’s London flat.

It said Ms Duffield had checked before Mr Routh moved in with her to make sure the new living arrangements complied with the guidance, which she said made provision for the breakdown of marriages.

Ms Duffield had been an opposition whip since the beginning of April, a role in which she was responsible for organising Labour MPs during votes in the House of Commons.

She became the first Labour MP for Canterbury in nearly 100 years when she won the seat in 2017. She retained it with an increased majority last year.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said Ms Duffield had rightly taken responsibility for her actions and relinquished her role as an opposition whip.

“She was absolutely right to resign,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “Clearly she wasn’t right to have broken the rules, quite the opposite.”

Citing the sacrifices that her constituents had made during the pandemic, Ms Dodds said it was “critically important… that everyone has got to stick to the rules to keep us all safe.”

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