MPs condemn Rees-Mogg’s ‘disgusting’ comments about pro-remain doctor
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised by MPs for comparing a pro-Remain doctor to the discredited Andrew Wakefield, who is widely blamed for the scare over the MMR jab.
On Monday, David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, called an LBC phone-in show and asked the leader of the Commons what mortality rate he would accept if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal.
On Thursday, Mr Rees-Mogg (pictured) compared Dr Nicholl to Dr Wakefield during a Commons business statement.
In 1998, Dr Wakefield’s discredited research linking autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine prompted many parents to stop their children being immunised.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments were “irresponsible”, while Liberal Democrat MP Dr Sarah Wollaston said they were “absolutely disgusting”.
Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs: “Preparations are in place and they are being done with remarkable efficiency. But yes, a lot of Remainers wish to make our skins crawl.
“What he had to say, I will repeat it, is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union. What level of irresponsibility was that?
“And I’m afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicoll is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield.”
Dr Nicholl said people could die because of potential problems with access to drugs and radioactive isotopes in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
On LBC on Monday, he said: “Having been involved in writing the plans for mitigation and having whistle-blown because I felt they were unsafe, what level of mortality rate are you willing to accept in the light of a no-deal Brexit?”
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “I don’t think there’s any reason to suppose that a no-deal Brexit should lead to a mortality rate.
“I think this is the worst excess of Project Fear and I’m surprised that a doctor in your position would be fear-mongering in this way on public radio.”
Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Liberal Democrat MP Phillip Lee cited the interview as being the “straw that broke the camel’s back” ahead of his defection from the Conservative Party.
In a moment of high drama in the Commons, Dr Lee crossed the floor while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was delivering a statement on the recent G7 summit.
Dr Lee said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg was just disgraceful in his manner and the way in which he spoke to a member of my profession.
“So if I am going to cite an incident, the straw that broke the camel’s back, it was that.
“It was disgraceful, it was about ignoring evidence, it was about showing disrespect to experts, to people with professional standing and knowledge.”
During the Commons business statement, Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) called on Mr Rees-Mogg to apologise for his remarks, but he insisted it was “scaremongering” to suggest people may die as a result of Brexit.
He said: “I’ll reiterate it because I think this doctor’s behaviour was disgraceful, and to scaremonger and to say that people are going to die because of Brexit is thoroughly irresponsible and unbefitting to his role.”
SNP MP Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) said: “Can you confirm if it is Government tactic to cause reputational damage to experts such as Dr David Nicholl who dare to challenge the Government or indeed raise legitimate concerns about the impact of no-deal?”
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Frankly, I think when people start saying people are going to die because of Brexit their reputations are destroyed by themselves.”
British Medical Association council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul hit out at the Tory MP’s comments.
He said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest insult about Dr David Nicholl is utterly disgraceful and totally irresponsible.
“Highly experienced doctors like David Nicholl who decide to speak out about risks to life and patient care should be supported and listened to, not attacked and derided by those who hold positions of responsibility.
“This unwarranted attack is particularly galling as Mr Rees-Mogg belongs to the same Government that called upon Dr Nicholl’s expertise to help draft medical opinion for Operation Yellowhammer and who also wrote the mitigations for the event of a no-deal.”
Dr Nicholl has been contacted for comment.
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