Grenfell Tower: Second apology over Jacob Rees-Mogg comments

Andrew Bridgen, former Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire

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Andrew Bridgen is the former Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire

A Conservative candidate has apologised for defending Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments that it would have been “common sense” to flee the Grenfell Tower fire.

Andrew Bridgen said Mr Rees-Mogg would have made a “better decision” than authority figures who gave people advice on the night of the fire.

He has now apologised “unreservedly” for his choice of words.

Mr Rees-Mogg made the remarks during an LBC radio phone-in on Monday.

The Leader of the House of Commons was speaking on the findings of a Grenfell inquiry report when he said: “The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer.

“And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do.”

Seventy-two people died in the fire at the tower block on 14 June 2017.

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Seventy-two people died in the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017

Mr Bridgen, who was the North West Leicestershire MP before the election was called, said Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments “were uncharacteristically clumsy”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM show on Tuesday, Mr Bridgen said: “What he’s actually saying is that he would have made a better decision than the authority figures who gave that advice.”

Asked by presenter Evan Davis if Mr Rees-Mogg was implying that he was cleverer than most people, Mr Bridgen replied: “But we want very clever people running the country, don’t we, Evan?

“That is a by-product of what Jacob is and that is why he is in a position of authority.”

Mr Bridgen later tweeted an apology for the remarks, saying: “I realise that what I said was wrong and caused a great deal of distress and offence.”

Before the apology, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne said Mr Bridgen’s comments were “contemptible” and that he should be removed as a parliamentary candidate.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg made the comments on LBC’s Nick Ferrari Show

Mr Rees-Mogg “profoundly apologised” for his comments on Tuesday, saying: “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time.

“However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.”

He had been criticised by survivors’ group Grenfell United who said his remarks were “beyond disrespectful” and were “extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families”.

Grenfell inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said fewer people would have died if the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had taken certain actions earlier.

He criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

The advice is designed to prevent hundreds of people descending stairs while firefighters are coming up during a contained fire.

LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton told the London Assembly on Tuesday the brigade would respond differently to a Grenfell-like fire in the future.

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