Councillor ‘disgusted’ after banners are put up outside Southend MP’s office

A conservative has slammed a group of activists for raising banners outside an MP’s office in Leigh and calling for more personal protective equipment for the NHS

The protesters who raised banners outside Iveagh Hall on Leigh Road, office of Conservative MP Sir David Amess, were branded “left wing socialist Momentum activists” by Tory councillor Kevin Buck, despite many not being members of the Labour Party.

Mr Buck also accused the activists of ignoring guidance on non-essential travel to take part in the protest.

“I am absolutely disgusted at the appalling and politically motivated behaviour of the left-wing socialist momentum activists in Southend, who defaced the Leigh office of Sir David Amess and the Southend West Conservatives Association this week,” he said.

“In a time of national crisis and a state ‘lock down’, when many are volunteering to support our vulnerable, their journey to Leigh to partake in a politically motivated act and deface the building with propaganda banners was certainly not essential.”

“Southend Hospital, in their own statement have confirmed that there is no shortage of essential PPE.”

One of the protesters involved was Jon Fuller, a member of Southend Friends of the Earth.
He explained that the protest was nothing to do with Momentum and said the focus was only on protecting NHS staff.

He said: “The basic point here is that there is a massive problem with PPE and there has been for months. At one point, Southend was in the news with staff saying unless they got the adequate PPE they would have to refuse patients – this was national news.

“It has still not been resolved so a number of us discussed this via social media and said we have to stand up for the NHS staff. Instead of merely applauding for them, we have to try to protect them from an incompetent government.”

He continued: “More than 100 frontline health care staff have been killed. We wanted to stand up for them. Does this councillor really think we would turn a blind eye when more than 100 have been killed? We won’t keep quiet.”

Mr Fuller reiterated the protest was done during their one hour of exercise with protesters walking to the office and following social distancing guidance. He further added that it had nothing to do with Momentum and said just one of the four protesters is a member of the Labour Party.

Councillor Matt Dent (Lab) said he felt Mr Buck had jumped to conclusions over the protest.

“Momentum don’t hold a monopoly over thinking that the country needs more PPE, it is actually a fairly widely held opinion by a lot of ordinary people,” he said.

“I would interpret this as a group of local activists campaigning at the office of a local MP on a national issue about PPE.

“Whether there are issues around PPE at Southend Hospital is irrelevant, we know there are problems in the country in general.

“It seems disingenuous to take umbridge at every level of this and say it is illegitimate.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter