South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon backs Prime Minister Boris Johnson – say he was 'surprised' that lockdown parties had generated so much interest
South Norfolk’s MP has backed the country’s under-fire Prime Minister – and said he was ‘surprised’ that reports of lockdown parties at Downing Street had generated so much interest.
Ahead of the publication of a report by Sue Gray into the ‘partygate’ scandal – a series of parties, drinks events and birthday celebrations that may have breached coronavirus lockdown rules – Richard Bacon reiterated his support for Boris Johnson as the PM seeks to quell mounting criticism and desperately cling on to power.
Speaking this week, Mr Bacon, who has held office since 2001, said: “I personally think that eating a piece of cake at the office is not an offence.
“I’m slightly surprised that it has dominated the headlines in the way that it has.
“Number 10 is an office. Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister; he’s not the office manager. He has civil servants who manage the office and make sure that the electricity bill is paid and to make sure social distancing occurs.”
He said it was absurd “to tear down the Prime Minister, the leader of a G7 country, because some 20-something staffers got rather over-excited after working 16 to 18 hours a day for weeks on end to support the PM in one of the biggest crises we have faced in peacetime”.
Mr Bacon was speaking on Monday, when he met villagers in Bressingham to talk about their fears over a controversial bioenergy development currently going through the planning process.
While there, he responded to allegations that he had been overlooking his constituency duties, and blamed the pandemic for restricting his public appearances.
Posters have been placed around his constituency, accusing the Conservative MP of adopting a low profile and declaring him “missing”. The posters asked: “Has anybody seen Richard lately?”
Mr Bacon said: “I’m here – I’m here right now.
“I have to point out we have gone through a pandemic. It has not been easy to be around; it has not been easy to do constituency surgeries and most places I would normally visit, like schools, have either been closed or under huge restrictions.
“The worst thing for many MPs is not being able to be out and about as much as they have always liked to be among their residents, talking to them.
“For that reason, I’m very glad that we are seeing a lifting of the Covid restrictions.”
Asked why other MPs have not attracted the same level of criticism that he has faced, Mr Bacon said: “I don’t know. I’m doing my best to make sure I am available to people.”
Mr Bacon said he continues to hold surgeries but they have been online, and added that he was looking forward to getting out and about as much as possible now.
In November, the MP sent out a single response to 86 residents who had complained to him, acknowledging that he had received their emails and asking those who had not included their residential address to send it.
Unbeknownst to him, the email addresses of all 86 senders were shared in his response – constituting a breach of data protection laws.
Mr Bacon immediately reported himself to the ICO, the data watchdog, following the breach.