Bridgen stripped of Tory whip for ‘utterly unacceptable’ Covid vaccine comments

MP Andrew Bridgen has been stripped of the Tory whip after appearing to compare Covid-19 vaccines with the Holocaust.

The North West Leicestershire MP tweeted an article questioning the safety of the vaccines, adding:  “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the comments were “utterly unacceptable” and chief whip Simon Hart took action because the remarks “crossed a line”.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, former health secretary Matt Hancock highlighted the “disgusting, antisemitic, anti-vax conspiracy theories”.

Without referring directly to Mr Bridgen, the former Cabinet minister said the comments were “not only deeply offensive but anti-scientific and have no place in this House or in our wider society”.

Mr Sunak responded by “completely condemning those kinds of comments we saw this morning in the strongest possible terms”.

“Obviously it is utterly unacceptable to make linkages and use language like that and I’m determined that the scourge of antisemitism is eradicated,” he told MPs.

Chief whip Simon Hart said: “Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process.

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“As a nation, we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have.

“Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.”

Tory MP Michael Fabricant welcomed the decision, saying his former colleague will have “blood on his hands” if his comments stop people public getting vaccinated.

“If this deters people from being vaccinated and causes deaths as a direct consequence, he’ll have blood on his hands. His tweets are wholly irresponsible.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, called the comments “highly irresponsible and wholly inappropriate”.

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Mr Bridgen is currently suspended from the Commons after he was found to have displayed a “very cavalier” attitude to the rules in a series of lobbying breaches.

MPs agreed at the start of the week to suspend Mr Bridgen for five sitting days from Tuesday.

Lord Mann, the Government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, said Mr Bridgen should be barred from standing for the Tories at the next election.

“There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election,” he said.

“He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Tory peer Lord Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said throughout the pandemic various anti-vaccine groups had compared themselves with victims of the Nazis: “It was distasteful then and remains so.”

“The act of murdering millions of innocent people does not lend itself to modern comparisons, it trivialises and distorts the Holocaust,” he said.

“People in authority have a duty to use language responsible; Mr Bridgen has failed that test, and I welcome the removal of the Conservative whip from him.”

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Professor Sir Kent Woods, emeritus professor of therapeutics at the University of Leicester, said there was “overwhelming evidence from both trials and epidemiological data that the benefits of Covid vaccines for the population as a whole far outweigh potential harms”.

He said: “The World Health Organisation has included vaccine hesitancy among the 10 leading threats to public health.

“The MMR-autism fiasco demonstrated clearly that groundless assertions of vaccine hazards can cause real harm. I am pleased to see that his party is taking action.”

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: “For the Conservative Party to delay action until now demonstrates, yet again, Rishi Sunak’s weakness among his own MPs.

“Andrew Brigden has been spreading dangerous misinformation on Covid vaccines for some time now. He could have been disciplined weeks ago.

“To invoke the Holocaust, as he did today, is utterly shameful, but it should never have reached this point.”

Mr Bridgen has been contacted for comment.