It is a scandal that won’t and shouldn’t go away. See also the first comment below: another Sunderland supporter, this time writing to Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, who took up cudgels against the Tory member responsible for the outrageous tweet rightly taken by fans to be insulting and defamatory …
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, is now acutely aware of the offence he caused with his yobbish choice of words to describe the alleged – falsely alleged – misconduct of “scumbag football hooligans” in Covent Garden on the eve of the league cup final.
He has belatedly apologised for his intemperate attack, still apparently unable to see that he looks like a man seeking to wriggle free of the charge of indulging in class defamation of the Sunderland supporters who were overwhelmingly those present in the area.
I’ll get to that apology in due course. Halfon has been offered, via his beloved Twitter, the freedom of Salut! Sunderland pages to explain himself properly but has not so far had the courtesy to respond.
First let us hear from Roy Sandbach, a level-headed, well-educated Sunderland fan I have known for 16 years, since we met at the Dover ferry terminal while waiting to cross to France after the 1998 promotion playoff final.
This is his open letter to the MP:
Dear Mr Halfon,
I am almost immune to the endless capability of our politicians to do and say the wrong thing. However, your comments on the thoroughly enjoyable events in Covent Garden on Saturday evening leave even me quite staggered.
London is a place for the nation. It is a place for ambition and targets. True in the general sense but specifically for non-capital based football supporters it can provide memories of “the best weekend of their lives”.
That you can fail to understand these emotions, and the outpouring of goodhearted enjoyment in Covent Garden that was the direct result, makes me quite, quite sad.
I have seen your original comments and your poor attempt to clarify and justify. Really not good enough. Why not just apologise and ask for forgiveness from Sunderland supporters who were there?
And this ridiculous suggestion that there were several teams’ supporters there; please give us some credit…….
As you may have gathered by now, I was one of the “scumbag football hooligans”.
I was joined by leaders of some of the biggest businesses in the UK. People leading others and understanding of the elements that contribute to leadership.
It is extremely sad that you have shown none of those leadership characteristics, either in your initial crass comment or in your subsequent response.
See also: Beauty and the Beast: Sunderland’s Wembley montage and a wriggling Tory MP: https://safc.blog/2014/03/beauty-and-the-beast-sunderlands-wembley-montage-and-a-wriggling-tory-mp/
I imagine Roy is as unimpressed by the self-serving terms of Halfon’s subsequent apology as I am.
The MP says he was “in no way” referring to people from Sunderland. He claimed he had distinguished between “genuine fans” and “hooligans who throw and smash glass all over the road”, which may come as a surprise to any who saw the tweet: “Went to London for dinner. Wish I hadn’t. Scumbag football hooligans turn Covent Garden into a disgusting Cesspit.”
Halfon goes on to make the preposterous suggestion that the context of his tweet “inevitably has been twisted or misunderstood as attacking a particular group of fans, or particular club, which was far from the case”.
Then he reaches the S word. ““For that I am sincerely sorry.” So he is sorry his innocent, measured words were “twisted and misunderstood”. A little like the bank robber who is truly sorry – that he got caught.
In fairness – not a commodity displayed by Halfon – he did go on: “I do regret most sincerely that my tweet did not reflect the distinction between a minority who had broken glass and the majority of decent fans who were just celebrating as any fan would do.”
Julie Elliott, Sunderland Central MP, who had written in disgust to Halfon, told the Daily Mirror: “Whilst I am pleased that Robert Halfon MP has apologised to the people of Sunderland for his comments, I continue to believe that they were wholly unfounded. The comments were also completely inappropriate for a Member of Parliament in this day and age.”