An MP who caused a storm after she said people should “stop being so sentimental” about child refugees has reignited the row after she poured scorn on a voter who discovered a lorry full of desperate children abandoned in a Kent carpark.
Daniel Grimwood, 40, wrote to Tory MP Pauline Latham after he heard her speech rejecting the need to give sanctuary to child refugees. He recounted a story of how he and his friends had heard banging coming from within a lorry while they were out jogging, leading them to alert the police.
“The cargo comprised two very young screaming babies, several toddlers and two adults,” he wrote to the MP in correspondence seen by The Independent.
“Had we not been there some or all of these children would almost certainly have died in a parking lot on our shores.
“Against this backdrop I find your speech callous and chilling in its inhumanity. It is not sentimental to hope vulnerable babies can be saved from suffocation and freezing in the back of a lorry on our shores, for shame! I am repulsed.”
Ms Latham fired back a one-line message from her iPad in reply: “Maybe you will be contacting your local authority and offering to foster or adopt these poor trafficked children. Sent from my iPad”.
Speaking to The Independent after the event Mr Grimwood characterised the response as “flippant”, “callous”, and “sort of sarcastic, which I just thought was in very, very poor taste”.
He added: “The first thing that shocked me about it really was the extreme rudeness of it.”
When contacted about the correspondence Ms Latham said in a statement: “I have spoken at great length about the desperate situation facing refugees. Families face a terrible situation and I have made it clear that other countries, alongside the UK, should play their part in helping people in such difficult circumstances.”
The Mid-Derbyshire MP admitted to a “poor choice of words” last month and said she had been “misconstrued” by colleagues after she said it was best for Syrian child refugees to be kept in the Middle East and that those who wanted to offer them sanctuary were being “sentimental”.
She made the original comments while defending the Government in a House of Commons debate about ministers' early closing down on the Dubs Scheme. The scheme had been widely expected to take 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees but the Government cut it short at just 350 after bad publicity in right-wing newspapers.
On Tuesday the House of Commons is set to vote on an amendment that could potentially re-open the scheme, with a potential backbench Conservative rebellion on the cards.
Speaking to The Independent Mr Grimwood, who works as a concert pianist, recounted the episode, which he said happened just after the speech.
“Some friends and I were running in an area where there were some lorries parked overnight. It’s usually a very quiet area so there’s nobody there, but we heard knocking inside coming from inside a lorry,” he said.
“One of us called the police, and the police came and we saw from afar that the first two things that loaded out of the back were two screaming babies followed by several young children, and I think somebody said there were two adults as well.
“I was left with a thought that had we not actually been there on that particular night it’s entirely possible that nobody would have been there and nobody would have heard them and you don’t know – it’s two babies, clearly very young babies as well – you wonder whether they would have died.
He continued: “The response to that struck me as being so incredibly callous.”
The Conservative party press office directed The Independent to Ms Latham’s office when approached for comment.