Robert Halfon MP: an open letter from an insulted Sunderland fan

'Still not good enough Mr Halfon'
‘Still not good enough Mr Halfon’

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.

Simply apologise.

Best Regards,

Roy Sandbach

As Rob Hutchinson saw Wembley Way
As Rob Hutchinson saw Wembley Way

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 MP
Julie Elliott MP
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.”

Another scumbag hooligan? Monsieur Salut by Matt
Another scumbag hooligan? Monsieur Salut by Matt
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4 thoughts on “Robert Halfon MP: an open letter from an insulted Sunderland fan”

  1. Good article and very well put in Roy’s letter. I especially appreciate the point you make about the capital being for the whole country.

  2. Thought you might like to see what I have sent to Sunderland MP Julie Elliott…

    Ms Elliott

    I do not usually have the time nor inclination to contact members of parliament who represent me or my constituency unless I am thoroughly upset, and upset I am; by comments made by ill informed, ill mannered and downright rude individuals who pass wholly unacceptable comments without knowledge of the situation.

    Of course I am referring to the comments made by Robert Halfon MP for Harlow – describing (unintentionally or not, but I believe the latter!) the 8,000+ Sunderland fans who had travelled to the capital on the Eve of the League Cup Final on Sunday 3rd March.

    Sadly, due to family and work commitments, I couldn’t ‘join the party’ but I had many family, close friends and associates there who were all enjoying a well organised, good natured, get together of Sunderland fans from across the globe. I can fully endorse that the fans in Convent Garden on that particular evening were neither “Scumbags” nor “Football Hooligans” and I cannot believe that the honourable gentleman could describe the scenes as a “Cesspit”… regular travellers to the capital will confirm the fact that due to both terrorist threats and activity etc, sadly there isn’t a plethora of bins available for general public to use around the capital, and it was on the advice of the Police that rubbish be discarded.

    Sadly bottles were broken – but I am sure the gentleman would have to concede that the capital has been strewn with rubbish on several occasions recently, the marriage of Wills and Kate, The Queen’s Birthday Party Celebrations, Jubilee Celebrations etc etc….would the honourable gentleman be so quick to tarnish the whole general British public as “Scumbags” for allowing rubbish to be left and a “Cesspit” being created – I think not – but football fans are an easy target for abuse!

    I understand that Mr Halfon is a football fan too – although I am sure he himself would be grossly upset at being labelled either a “Football Hooligan” or a “Scumbag”.

    If Mr Halfon ever managed to get past Watford gap, he would indeed see that Northerners aren’t actually flat capped, whippet rearing neanderthals who enjoy a life of luxury whilst collecting hand outs from the state. Neither do we spend our time on the Northumberland hills looking for ideal fracking spots!!! I can confirm from a personal viewpoint that we are actually well educated, articulate and hard working; we also have respect for ourselves and for others. …sadly, it seems that this gentleman is sadly lacking on all counts.

    As a football supporter, I am deeply offended by Mr Halfons comments, but as a Sunderland fan I find his comments absolutely appalling and downright slanderous. I also found his immediate wriggling (not an apology I must add) exceedingly bad mannered and completely insincere, instead adopting the stance that his comments were “twisted and misunderstood”. Mentioning Covent Garden in particular – his own words were aimed fully and squarely at Sunderland AFC supporters. Has his education and upbringing led him to believe that common people are just that ‘common’ and therefore, ill educated and ill informed?.

    I hope that the income generated within the capital across the weekend by the thousands of Sunderland fans who were in the capital for a first visit in over 20 years (myself included) were taken with better grace. Of the many thousands of fans from both Sunderland and Manchester – who had travelled thousands of miles to support their respective teams there were only 5 arrests over the course of the whole weekend. Fans from both clubs have been credited for their exemplary behaviour – sadly the same cannot be said for the mp for Harlow!

    Sincerely

    Sheila Helen Webster, BA (Hons), PGCE, wife, mother and thoroughly disgusted Sunderland fan….and as you may tell from my tone, NOT a Conservative supporter.Ms Elliott

    • Great letter Sheila. Well said. The closest we came to witnessing an arrest at the weekend was a Sunderland supporter being hauled away by police on our way to the stadium on Sunday – turned out they’d set up a photo opportunity and the policeman was laughing, as did we. The closest we came to any trouble was a couple of supporters gently complaining in a Pizza Express that they’d had to wait an hour for their meal (it was full of Sunderland supporters enjoying a quiet glass of red wine and a few doughballs before the long journey home).

      Perhaps we could add to your list of national celebrations, the turnout in Trafalgar Square and throughout the city for the England cricket team coming back with the Ashes. I can only assume there wasn’t a bit of glass or an empty can to be collected after millions turned out then.

      London can’t have it both ways. It’s the right stadium, in (in my opinion) the wrong place. I’m sure the citizens of Birmingham would have appreciated the income and the celebrations.

      • In the wrong place is a complete understatement. Apart from the result, the only blot on the weekend was the almost 3 hours spent getting out of the car park, leading to an 11 hour journey home. How is it possible to build a national stadium for 90000 people with 1 road in and out. The people in charge at the FA MUST face up to this and do something about, particularly as more and more games are being played there to try and pay off the debt for this terrible decision. The same stadium a short distance North, next to the M1 and it would be great.

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