A Conservative MP has faced condemnation from government ministers after he told an anti-vaccination campaign group that NHS statistics are being “manipulated” and that we are living in a “police state”.
Sir Desmond Swayne told Save Our Rights UK, which organised the anti-lockdown rally in Trafalgar Square last September, to continue their fight against lockdown restrictions because NHS figures were being overstated.
In an interview with the group, first obtained by Sky News, Sir Desmond said: “It seems to be a manageable risk, particularly as figures have been manipulated… We’re told there is a deathly, deadly pandemic proceeding at the moment.
“That is difficult to reconcile with ICUs [intensive care units] actually operating at typical occupation levels for the time of year and us bouncing round at the typical level of deaths for the time of year.”
Almost 38,000 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus in the UK — almost double the peak of the first wave. Nearly 4,000 of those are on mechanical ventilation, marking a 50 per cent increase since the height of the pandemic last year.
Sir Desmond told the Save Our Rights UK, which also campaigns against vaccinations: “As the last [Commons] Speaker used to say, ‘Persist! Persist!’ That’s my advice — persist.”
He added that Britain had become “a police state” and accused the government of attempting to implement “social control” over the public.
Michael Gove, government minister and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, slammed his colleague’s comments as “wrong” and “completely out of order”.
“I would hope that he issues a full and complete retraction and apology for what he said — it’s unacceptable,” Gove told Sky News, though he refused to comment on whether the party whip should be removed.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, has urged the Conservative Party to launch an immediate investigation into the Tory MP’s conduct.
Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer will speak to Sir Desmond and will ask him to attend a meeting with scientific advisers, according to the Times.
Asked by Sky News this morning whether he was apologetic about the claims, Sir Desmond said: “No, the complaint was legitimate at the time,” adding that the prospect of having the whip removed from him would be akin to a “thought crime”.