Leicester mayor who criticised city lockdown broke rules himself to visit girlfriend as voters brand him ‘hypocrite’

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THE Leicester mayor who criticised the city’s lockdown has been branded a hypocrite after breaking the rules to visit his girlfriend.

Sir Peter Soulsby – the Mayor of Leicester and a former Labour MP – angered locals with visits to Lesley Summerland, 64.

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Sir Peter Soulsby – the Mayor of Leicester and a former Labour MP – angered locals with visits to Lesley Summerland, 64.

The trips – which often saw him arrive in his blue Vauxhall saloon car with an overnight bag and clean shirt on a hanger – came at the same time as he was urging the public to respect the lockdown.

And the public has now branded him a “hypocrite” as the East Midlands city was put into an extra two weeks of lockdown after a spike in cases.

Leicester was today put into the UK’s first local lockdown after a worrying spike saw 866 new cases recorded in just two weeks.

The shocking numbers mean that the city accounts for 10 per cent of all coronavirus cases in the UK.

It is understood that the outbreak originated in food processing sites – with the East Midlands city particularly hit due to its high number of garment and sewing factories.

And the city’s mayor today criticised the slow response from the Government in sharing case and testing data.

He said: “What we need to know is what’s happening at the community level, what’s happening at the neighbourhood level, what’s happening at the street level, because obviously we’re a very diverse city.”

But the mayor is now facing a petition calling for him to resign after his own behaviour during the lockdown.

Angry neighbours of ex-schoolteacher Lesley claim they saw him visit regularly in April, before they began filming him in mid-May.

At the time – under the government-announced lockdown – people were barred from travelling to any homes but their own and lovers were banned from overnight stays.

In explaining his behaviour, Sir Peter said he was “genuinely sorry” for breaching the lockdown guidelines but then tried to excuse his behaviour.

He claimed that he, “thought what I was doing was within the guidance” and that he had “formed a bubble” with his lover.

Pictures and footage show Sir Peter, 71, visiting on several different evenings during May, often carrying an overnight bag or shirts.

Sometimes he would park his blue Vauxhall saloon car on her driveway for the night.

In other clips, Sir Peter can be seen helping his partner with odd jobs. In a video shot on May 30, veteran politician Sir Peter was seen scaling a ladder outside Lesley’s home and helping a man – thought to be her son – install a new upstairs window.

The Labour stalwart – in chinos, a lilac shirt and a cap – was seen chatting to Lesley at the end of the clip through the window.

His visits came after he urged people to do their duty at the end of March, days before lockdown was enforced on March 23.

In a speech to Leicester City Council, Sir Peter said: “Our duty is now clear – to protect loved ones, neighbours, friends, key workers and our fellow citizens.”

And throughout May, he used his Leicester City Mayor Twitter account to dole out safety advice and reinforce the government’s “stay home” message.

One furious local resident said: “It was all too blatant and we felt that something had to be done.

He is a hypocrite and has been telling people to respect the lockdown and social distancing and not practising what he preaches

“We have all been struggling through this time, not seeing our loved ones and families, and here’s the Mayor and his girlfriend doing just as they please.

“He is a hypocrite and has been telling people to respect the lockdown and social distancing and not practising what he preaches.

“He and Lesley have been together for a few years but they have separate addresses and he certainly didn’t move in.

“He just came and went as he pleased, staying three or four times a week, and he did this all through lockdown. He was blatantly breaking the rules.”

Another neighbour said: “It makes my blood boil. Every time I see him, I think, ‘how can you still be in your job?’.”

A third said: “He should be leading by example. He should have known the rules better than anyone else.”

“If further action is needed then of course we are willing to take it.”

Sir Peter, a former Labour MP who was knighted by Tony Blair in 1999 for his services to local government, lives in a large semi-detached house near Leicester city centre.

It is seven miles from his partner’s home in a cul-de-sac in Groby, a sprawling village on the edge of Leicester.

A neighbour of Sir Peter said he was a “busy man” who had been “coming and going” during lockdown.

The city mayor is considered a minor celebrity in Leicester – having started serving on the Council in 1974.

He was an MP for six years before becoming Leicester’s first elected mayor in 2011 – and he is now in his third term.

The post means he is in executive control of the Council, with a reported salary of £67,000.

One of Ms Summerland’s neighbours added: “Lesley makes no secret of her relationship with the Mayor. She positively boasts about it. His visits were happening all through May. It has been like the rules just don’t apply to her.”

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