Labour has called for a Tory MP who attacked Chris Whitty for his Covid advice to apologise for her remarks or be sacked from her government post.
Joy Morrissey branded Whitty an “unelected covid public health spokesperson” on Twitter and suggested he “defer to what our elected members of parliament and the prime Minister have decided”.
“I know it’s difficult to remember but that’s how democracy works,” she added. “This is not a public health socialist state.”
Morrissey, a private parliamentary secretary to deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab, has since deleted the tweet but has not apologised.
Instead, she issued a follow-up tweet in which she said she was “increasingly concerned at public health pronouncements made in the media that already seem to exceed or contradict decisions made by our elected representatives”.
I am increasingly concerned at public health pronouncements made in the media that already seem to exceed or contradict decisions made by our elected representatives.
Expert advice is important but decisions must be made by those we elect, who are democratically accountable.
— Joy Morrissey MP (@joymorrissey) December 16, 2021
Following her remarks shadow justice secretary Steve Reed called on Raab to force Morrissey to apologise or sack her.
In a letter to Raab, Reed said: “I am calling on you to demand that she apologise or, failing that, be removed from her position.
“It is vital, especially during this pandemic, that our leading scientists have the freedom to give public health advice to the public and to offer their expertise without fear of reprisal.
“As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly through Britain, there must not be any sign of the government censoring or intimidating our leading scientific experts.”
Morrissey is not the only Tory MP to vent their anger at Whitty following his advice that the public should “prioritise” social events that matter to them and avoid those that do not.
Conservative MP Steve Baker hit out at “officials” who have a “massive capacity to herd the public into particular behaviours”, while colleague Steve Brine accused “advisers” like Whitty of “running the show”.
Later in the morning Downing Street dismissed Morrissey’s claim that Whitty was acting as if Britain is a “public health socialist state” and issued a staunch defence of the chief medical officer.
Asked if Boris Johnson agreed with her comment, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “No. Professor Whitty is a hugely respected and trusted public servant who provides independent, evidence-based advice.
“I think he himself has been clear that he provides advice and it is rightly for ministers and elected politicians to decide.
“He has been a hugely trusted and valued part of our pandemic response and continues to be so.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.