A British politician from the ruling Conservative Party has been suspended for comparing COVID-19 vaccines to the Holocaust.
Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said the vaccine rollout marked “the biggest crime against humanity” since millions of Jews were killed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Confirming Bridgen’s suspension on Wednesday, Conservative chief whip Simon Hart said the 58-year-old had “crossed a line” and caused “great offence”.
“As a nation, we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme,” Hart said. “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,” Hart said.
Bridgen, a longstanding critic of COVID-19 vaccines, had tweeted a link to an article about the vaccines on a website that has published conspiracy theories and commented: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”
His suspension means he will sit in the House of Commons as an independent member of Parliament while a formal investigation takes place.
PM Sunak slams ‘unacceptable’ remarks
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Bridgen’s comment was “utterly unacceptable”.
“I’m determined that the scourge of anti-Semitism is eradicated,” he said in Parliament. “It has absolutely no place in our society.”
Karen Pollock, head of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the comparison between the vaccines and Holocaust was “highly irresponsible and wholly inappropriate”.
Bridgen later apologised but argued his main point was valid.
“The use of the Holocaust as a reference was insensitive, for which I apologise,” he said. “I have deleted the offending tweet.”
“However, this must not be used to distract from valid concerns related to the vaccine,” he argued. “The article I tweeted presents the work of a Jewish Israeli researcher.”
Before his suspension, Bridgen was already under scrutiny for breaching parliamentary rules on paid lobbying and declaring financial interests.
He had been suspended from the House of Commons for five days for the breaches.