'Mind-boggling ignorance': Holocaust survivor criticises Andrew Bridgen's vaccine remarks

A Holocaust survivor has condemned a Tory MP's "mind-boggling ignorance" after he compared the mass genocide of Jewish people during World War II to the COVID vaccine rollout.

Andrew Bridgen tweeted an article on Wednesday questioning the safety of the jabs, adding: "As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust."

The prominent backbencher has now had the whip removed, meaning he is no longer a Conservative MP but will sit as an independent.

Martin Stern, a Holocaust survivor and retired immunologist, added his voice to the criticism of the remarks, which have been condemned by politicians, scientists and charities.

"People in a position of public responsibility like Andrew Bridgen owe us, the public, a debt of due diligence," he told Sky News.

"Before they open their mouths about an issue like this, they should inform themselves, they should get expert advice.

"Andrew Bridgen has not done that, so he has failed in his duty to his constituents and to the British public."

Mr Stern, 85, was born in Holland and survived Nazi concentration camps at both Westerbork and Theresienstadt when he was a child.

After the war he moved to England to live with family and trained as a doctor.

The retired immunologist said: "I spend my life these days working with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Holocaust Education Trust, the National Holocaust Centre and the Anne Frank Trust educating people about the Holocaust, but even among adults there is a mind-boggling degree of ignorance.

"Andrew Bridgen's response reflects that. He wouldn't be saying that if he had even a reasonable idea of what the Holocaust was about."

The Holocaust is the name given to the systematic murder of six million Jewish people by the Nazi Germany regime and their allies during the Second World War.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the comments made by Mr Bridgen were "utterly unacceptable" and chief whip Simon Hart took action because the remarks "crossed a line".

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."

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Mr Bridgen is already serving a five-day suspension from the Commons for breaching lobbying rules and suggesting the woman investigating him could be swayed with a peerage.

His comment comes about a fortnight before Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

The MP for North West Leicestershire has continually shared anti-vaccine messaging and Labour branded Mr Sunak "weak" for not disciplining him "weeks ago".

"To invoke the Holocaust, as he did today, is utterly shameful, but it should never have reached this point," said party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds.

About 20 million lives were saved by the COVID vaccine in its first year, Imperial College London research published in June last year found.

Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the safety and efficacy of vaccines are "tested rigorously in clinical trials" while the data is subjected to challenges by independent experts, "and undergoes painstakingly detailed regulatory review".

"Ideological beliefs in favour or against vaccination are not science and have no role to play in making the best policy," he added.