Tuesday 24 March 2020


You may have seen the video that circulated online last week of an ignorant British tourist being dragged out of a Spanish swimming pool after violating the country's coronavirus lockdown.  It turns out that the woman involved is a Labour councillor from Norfolk.  Cllr Joanne Rust is not only Labour's deputy leader on King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, but she has stood as a candidate in the last three general elections.

In the video Cllr Rust is shown flouting Spain's strict lockdown procedures by swimming in the hotel's outdoor pool in Tenerife.  She is filmed and jeered by fellow holidaymakers from their balconies overlooking the pool.  Two police officers demand she exit the pool, but she refuses.  One of them dives in to physically drag her out, before she is arrested and dragged away screaming.  Listen to the applause from her fellow guests as she is led away.

53-year-old Rust has since admitted that her actions were 'foolish', but lashed out at Spanish authorities and her tour operator.  Speaking to the Daily Mail she said: "I find the whole thing really quite upsetting and so I don’t want to engage in a discussion about it.  What I know is I went on holiday to a place for which a tour operator gave me no information and as a result of that I had a lost holiday".  She was held in a cell overnight following her arrest and appeared in court the day.  She was reportedly charged with a public order offence and bailed, although she has denied this in today's Sun newspaper, saying that the charge was dropped after she apologised.  She flew back into the UK over the weekend with her husband, also a Labour member according to the Daily Mail.

After being exposed in yesterday's Mail, Cllr Rust went into a lockdown of her own and has disappeared off social media, deleting both her Twitter and Facebook accounts.  Before she deleted her Facebook account she wrote: "So, we’re back in the UK after a failed holiday in the Canary Islands.  Our tour operator and Ryanair flew us out knowing the whole of Spain was in a national state of emergency.  I tried to research whether it applied to the islands but could find no news. Wasn’t entirely sure what ‘lockdown’ would mean either. I foolishly assumed if our tour operators were still sending us, it might be ok. Also, it was hard to contemplate losing all the money we’d spent on it. So, we went and had to spend literally all the time in our hotel room. The social distancing was rigidly enforced and the police were out in force to deal with it. Pushing people up hotel stairs and shouting get in your rooms. It was scary when Ryanair cancelled our flights home. We had to spend more money to get an alternative that came home a day early".  No mention of an arrest there.

In today's Sun newspaper she made a contradictory statement: "Nowhere were there signs saying ‘This is a national state of emergency’, which there were at the hotel we later moved to.  The idea that everyone was already in isolation in their rooms is absolutely untrue."  However, in the video she is the only person outside, while everyone else appears to be observing the lockdown.  Furthermore she clearly refuses to leave the pool when ordered to do so.  She told The Sun that the policemen were 'very hostile' and she was 'scared'.  Some of those sharing the video online have suggested that she must have been drunk.

Cllr Rust's profile on King's Lynn & West Norfolk Council website

If Cllr Rust had done her 'research' properly, she would have known that Tenerife was a confirmed Covid-19 hotspot as early as 24 February.  The virus was traced back to an Italian tourist.  The Spanish government declared a national 'state of alarm' on 14 March, before Rust and her husband travelled.  Ironically her most recent campaign leaflet read: "Truth is a very important principle to Jo (both in life and in politics).  So many of our politicians hide behind lies and deceit which is why Jo firmly believes that a good MP should be transparent, truthful and honest".  Oops.

Cllr Rust and Jeremy Corbyn in a picture taken from her now deleted Facebook page

Cllr Rust is a Unison official and a Corbyn loyalist.  She stood for Parliament in the same constituency in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 elections, finishing second each time.  Last December she haemorrhaged almost 5,000 votes as the Tory incumbent increased his majority from 13,788 to 19,922.

Norfolk North West 2019 general election

James Wild (Con) 30,627 (65.7%) +5.5%
Joanne Rust (Lab) 10,705 (23.0%) -9.0%
Rob Colwell (L Dem) 3,625 (7.8%) +4.9%
Michael De Whalley (Green) 1,645 (3.5%) +1.8%

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Canary Islands is another Labour councillor - Peter Atkinson of Brighton and Hove City Council.  He flew out to Gran Canaria the day that Spain began lockdown proceedings.  Cllr Atkinson hasn't been in any trouble with the police, but has been whingeing to his local rag The Argus.  He and his wife have been confined to their hotel since the lockdown began and he's very unhappy with his tour operator (with some justification): "What really vexes me, what I’m really angry about, is that I spent a lot of time on the phone the day before I left.  I said ‘are you sure it’s OK to travel’ but they kept saying yes.  They were telling me and others that ‘if you cancel now then you won’t get any money back".

Covid-19 was already confirmed in Gran Canaria prior to Cllr Atkinson's flight, but he was placed in a tricky situation by tour operator Tui - stay home and lose his money or risk flying out to one of the worst affected countries in the world.  Oh well, at least the weather's nice out...

Cllr Atkinson's profile on Brighton & Hove City Council's website