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Medway reaction: calls for Boris Johnson to resign over lockdown lawbreaking

A grieving son who was unable to visit his dying father due to Covid restrictions has called on the Prime Minister to resign.

Garry Russell, whose dad Derek ‘Rusty’ Russell died at Medway hospital in January last year, spoke out in the wake of news Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson will be fined by the police for breaking lockdown laws.

Boris Johnson addressing the nation
Boris Johnson addressing the nation

Officials confirmed yesterday the trio had been notified they would be given fixed-penalty notices, following a Met Police investigation into lockdown gatherings.

“If I was in charge they would have to go,” said Garry, who works as a theatre assistant practitioner at the same hospital.

“There’s thousands of people up and down the country in a similar position to me.

“It’s heartbreaking what’s happened, and he has made a fool of us.

“He’s lied to the public – he said there wasn’t a party, and then there was a party but he wasn’t involved.

Garry Russell's dad Derek died of Covid in Medway Maritime Hospital in January 2021
Garry Russell's dad Derek died of Covid in Medway Maritime Hospital in January 2021

“I think the next thing they will say is they have to wait for the Sue Gray report."

Garry said it had been heartbreaking for him and his mum Kathleen to be unable to visit his father, who had been suffering with dementia prior to his death.

The 90-year-old was taken to hospital from the family home in Luton Road after suffering the latest in a long line of falls.

Tragically, this coincided with the peak of the Kent variant when the Gillingham hospital found itself on the front line.

But Garry now says he wishes he had broken the rules and visited his father.

Kathleen and Derek Russell
Kathleen and Derek Russell

“I regret not going now after what’s happened,” he added. “That will go with me to the grave. I wish I had done what they did and broken the rules.

“I’m annoyed and upset by what’s happened – the fact they had a jolly-up when a lot of people were sticking to the rules.

“He should resign. I would like to see someone in charge who has got some backbone.

"There’s no way they can keep their jobs in the near future, but he’s gone a bit Teflon – he keeps coming back.

“They have to go because they’ve broken the rules. But I don’t think it will be done in the immediate future.

Cllr Vince Maple
Cllr Vince Maple

“This time next week they could both step down but it’s probably up to the 1922 committee.

“If they said they had both resigned tomorrow I would say ‘good job’, but I can’t see that happening.”

Following news of the fines, Medway Labour's leader renewed calls for local Tory councillors and MPs to demand Mr Johnson’s resignation.

Cllr Vince Maple said: “When challenged on the behaviour of the Prime Minister earlier this year, despite the overwhelming evidence condemning Boris Johnson, the leader of Medway Council said he was still waiting for the investigation to be completed before passing any judgement.

“Now the Metropolitan Police have found the PM guilty of breaking the law. In a democracy it’s of the utmost importance that our rule makers should never be rule breakers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak

"The people of Medway sacrificed a lot to do the right thing and abide by the rules during the pandemic, and it’s only right that Cllr Jarrett and our three Medway MPs finally join us by demanding Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s resignations.”

Deputy Labour leader Cllr Teresa Murray said: “Medway hospital has sadly reported the 1,000th death from coronavirus in Medway and there are still patients who are seriously ill with the virus. It’s been an extraordinarily difficult period for our community.

“In tough times like these our country needs strong leadership, but this news confirms what we’ve known for a long time.

"While people here were stepping up and playing their part to beat this virus, the Prime Minister and those around him weren’t even able to do the bare minimum by following the very rules that they had created.

"In contrast people in Medway followed the rules and many are still suffering from the loss of loved ones.

MPs Kelly Tolhurst, Rehman Chishti and Tracey Crouch
MPs Kelly Tolhurst, Rehman Chishti and Tracey Crouch

“There can be no more deflections and equivocations – Medway’s MPs must stand up for our community and submit letters of no confidence in their leader.”

On Tuesday evening, KentOnline approached MPs Rehman Chishthi (Rainham and Gillingham), Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) and Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) for comment regarding the fines.

We have received no replies.

Ms Tolhurst, however, tweeted: “The PM has apologised, accepted responsibility and made changes accordingly in No10. This is not the time to change our leader.

"His focus must be on what’s happening in Ukraine and dealing with the cost of living challenges our country and people are facing.”

Cllr Alan Jarrett
Cllr Alan Jarrett

Meanwhile, Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett would not call on the Prime Minister to resign.

“That’s a matter for him,” he said. “The police have dealt with it and there’s nothing to add. I’m not going to comment further, I’m going to concentrate on local politics.”

But asked if breaking the rules made it difficult to hold a position of authority, Cllr Jarrett agreed.

“Yes, but obviously the police have found him guilty and he’s got to pay the fine. There’s nothing more to add.”

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