UPDATED: ‘A new low’ for former MP

Mr Seely invited himself to join the official line-up.

Conservative candidate for West Wight, Bob Seely, is facing criticism for allegedly breaking election rules and using a D-Day event for political advantage.

Following Rishi Sunak’s appeal for veterans to “find it in their hearts to forgive him” for disrespecting D-Day events, Mr Seely has come under fire for his own conduct at a veterans’ event, but, unlike Mr Sunak, he has not apologised.

Once an election is called there are no MPs . To make the poll as fair as possible former MPs must not give the impression they are still in office. Parliament’s guide explicitly states, “You should not be identified as an MP at any pre-arranged event; attendance should be in a private capacity or as an election candidate.”

Despite having no role in Newport’s D-Day 80 event on Saturday, Mr Seely arrived in uniform and positioned himself alongside the Lord-Lieutenant, Susie Sheldon, to take the salute. Organisers at Newport & Carisbrooke Community Council (N&CCC) confirmed that Mr Seely had not been invited or asked permission to be part of the official proceedings. He has refused to explain his actions or apologise for “hi-jacking” the D-Day 80 event.

Public reaction
Three veterans present told the IW Observer they were “disgusted” at Mr Seely’s behaviour, adding they thought he was using the poignant anniversary and his uniform to try to boost his re-election campaign.

Green Party candidate for East Wight and N&CCC member, Vix Lowthion, reported that members of the public contacted her “horrified” by Mr Seely hi-jacking the event. She noted that, while she and other candidates attended and spoke privately to veterans, the public and community organisations, none used the occasion for self-promotion.

Ian Pickering, West Wight Reform UK candidate, felt the commemorations should be a time for remembering the horrors of war, not for political gain. He added: “I was able to remember, in particular, an uncle of mine who was killed whilst saving the life of a fellow crew member.”

Green Party candidate, Cameron Palin, attended the East Cowes commemoration, but not in his role as deputy mayor. He explained that he chose to remain on the sidelines because it was important that candidates were not the focus of events. He expressed disappointment at Mr Seely putting his “self-importance” above much more important considerations.

Labour’s candidate Richard Quigley commented: “The Tories and Bob have been disrespecting the British people for 14 years, but using such an event to promote himself during an election is a new low. I spoke to veterans and serving members of the armed forces alike who simply couldn’t understand why he decided to put on a uniform and gatecrash the line-up – nobody else did!”

Even the East Wight Conservative candidate, Joe Robertson, refused to support him. When asked if he agreed with his counterpart’s actions he responded: “I really would rather not comment on this.”

The incident is not the only example of Mr Seely flouting parliamentary rules during this election. The published guidance also states: “Websites and social media accounts must carry a disclaimer to clarify that you are no longer an MP”, supplying suggested wording. While Mr Seely’s Facebook page carries a disclaimer, his X (formerly Twitter) account and website, both in use when he was an MP, simply replace ‘MP’ with ‘candidate’ with no further clarification.

Polling shows that Mr Seely might shortly lose his position, as the West Wight seat could switch to Labour on July 4.

UPDATE

Mr Seely has now contacted the IW Observer with the following statement: “I attended the D-Day event in Newport as a serving Reservist officer in the British Army. I joined the salute as a serving Reservist officer in the British Army.” He added that he comes from a service family.

However, Cllr Ian Dore, the IW Council’s Armed Services Champion was contacted on the day of the event and has now issued a statement: “I’m not going to get involved with any ‘political angling’, those views have been aired and I’m sure will roll on. The question I was posed on the day, is whether Mr Seely should have saluted the parade. The short and definitive answer is no.

For context, it is customary for the host (in this case Cllr Martin Oliver), to receive the Lord-Lieutenant as he or she arrives. In some cases, the host is present at the salute as well. That is down to the discretion of the Lord-Lieutenant but as you can see, was observed at this event. When present in the capacity of Armed Forces Champion at a marching parade, for I and others, the correct position is one pace behind the Lord-Lieutenant.

When it comes to protocol, it is this. The Lord-Lieutenant represents the Crown and takes precedence over all civic dignitaries at an event or function. They are treated as if His Majesty were present at the occasion. It is they and they alone that have the privilege of taking the salute at a march past. That is the correct protocol and as the photo clearly shows, Mr Seely broke that protocol.

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So – is our story untrue?

Mr Seely has claimed in writing that the IW Observer’s original article is “untrue.” We have asked him to clarify the detail of what he is saying is untrue. If and when we hear back from him we will update the article appropriately.

More than 24 hours after this article was published he has still not updated his website.

The full list of candidates standing for Isle of Wight West is: Cameron Palin (Green), Ian Pickering (Reform UK), Richard Quigley (Labour), Bob Seely (Conservative), Nick Stuart (Lib Dem) and Rachel Thacker (Alliance for Democracy and Freedom).