Britain’s ruling Conservative party suspended one of its own lawmakers from the party on Wednesday after he compared the COVID-19 vaccine to the Holocaust.
Tory Chief Whip Simon Hart said in a statement that MP Andrew Bridgen had “crossed a line, causing great offence in the process.”
“Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives,” Hart said. “I am therefore removing the whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.”
Losing the whip is one of the most severe punishments a British political party can level against a lawmaker, effectively removing them from the faction. Bridgen will sit in the House of Commons as an independent MP.
Bridgen, the member of parliament for North West Leicestershire, tweeted earlier Wednesday, in reference to claims that COVID vaccines cause heart damage: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”
Posting unfounded conspiracy theories from sources known to propagate misinformation on the matter, he wrote, “We know the ‘vaccines’ are causing serious harms [sic] and now it’s becoming increasingly clear how they are doing it. No wonder so many people are ill since vaccination.”
Hart defended the COVID vaccinations, saying “as a nation, we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine program. The vaccine is the best defense against COVID that we have.”
Bridgen has long claimed that COVID vaccines are dangerous and backed misinformation theories related to the coronavirus pandemic. He is already under a five-day suspension for implying that a woman investigating him for alleged breach of lobbying rules was being influenced against him with the offer of a peerage.
Prior to Hart’s announcement, Labour MP Christian Wakeford, who defected from the Conservative Party last year over revelations that then-prime minister Boris Johnson had attended parties during coronavirus lockdown, tweeted: “Fake news and scaremongering on vaccines is bad enough but to invoke the Holocaust during the month of Holocaust Memorial Day is despicable. When is it enough for the Tories to withdraw the whip?”
Jewish umbrella organization the Board of Deputies said in a statement: “For an MP to suggest that COVID vaccines are the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust is unconscionable.”
Chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust Karen Pollock said Bridgen’s comment was “highly irresponsible and wholly inappropriate.”
The annual review published last year by the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency noted that antivaxxers often used Holocaust symbolism in their demonstrations.
“Many demonstrations against the COVID vaccines and restrictions included Holocaust motifs, such as the yellow star, as well as antisemitic conspiracy theories accusing Jews as spreaders of the pandemic to control the world,” the report said, expressing concern over the “trivialization of the Holocaust.”