Labour whip resigns after breaking lockdown rules to meet married boyfriend

Tony Diver
Rosie Duffield

A Labour MP has stepped down from her front bench position as whip after admitting she broke lockdown rules to meet her married lover.

Rosie Duffield met her boyfriend for a long walk in April, while it was still against the lockdown rules to meet people from different households, the Mail on Sunday reported.

She resigned as a whip on Saturday night and said she was “attempting to navigate a difficult personal situation".

Ms Duffield, 48, was living separately from married father-of-three James Routh, pictured below, a TV director, when they went for a long walk in her constituency and he visited her home, it was reported.

The MP for Canterbury told the Mail on Sunday the pair observed the two-metre social distancing rules, but these incidents were before meetings between people from different households were allowed.

James Routh

Mr Routh has since moved into the MP's London flat after separating from his wife, the newspaper reported.

Ms Duffield said she made sure he was allowed to move into her flat under lockdown rules before he did so.

In a statement, the MP said: "My partner and I have been attempting to navigate a difficult personal situation as responsibly as possible.

"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."

Mr Routh is reported to have said that separating from his wife was "painful" but that it has become "increasingly impossible to live under the same roof."

Friends of his wife told the Mail on Sunday that she is "heartbroken" and did not expect the split.

One told the newspaper: "She’s not only heartbroken about what’s happened, but also that Rosie is telling her supporters not to break the rules when she’s doing exactly that. And the fact that Rosie couldn’t wait until the pandemic was over."

Ms Duffield was elected in the 2017 General Election with a majority of 187, winning a seat which had been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1918.

She held onto the seat in the 2019 General Election, increasing her majority to 1,836.

She has previously attacked people breaking social distancing online.

In a tweet on May 25, she wrote: “I really am struggling to understand what is so difficult about  social distancing - it has been clearly explained for months now. I understand the need for businesses to stay afloat but we ALL have to be responsible adults.”  

On Sunday shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said it was “absolutely right” for Ms Duffield to resign.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, Ms Dodds said: "She was absolutely right to resign, clearly she wasn't right to have broken the rules - quite the opposite - and it is absolutely correct that she has immediately taken responsibility for that as I understand it, and she has resigned.

"But, you know, it is critically important ... I talk to my constituents and the kind of sacrifices that they have gone through to stick to the rules, to keep us all safe, everybody has got to do that.

"So it is absolutely right, I think, that Rosie Duffield has resigned her position on the front bench."