Labour’s chairman Ian Lavery told activists that coronavirus was a “great opportunity” to organise and advance the party’s political agenda.
In a recording obtained by political news website Guido Fawkes, Mr Lavery is heard telling thousands of young Labour activists during an online chat on Friday night: “By the way when something like this happens, we’re going to see lots of our own dying as a consequence.
“But, you know apart from that, it’s going to give the fantastic battalion of Labour Party members, community champions out there a great opportunity of showing how Labour, and why Labour, is best when it gets on the front foot and best when it gets people together.
“We need to make sure that we do that, and community organising — what a great opportunity it’s going to give us.”
“Every one of us, every one of our families… relations, friends, organising the communities, because there is going to be lots of people out there that really need our help,” the MP for Wansbeck added.
Ian Lavery literally salivating at the thought of possibly tens of thousands of our vulnerable citizens perishing because he hopes it might breath life into the dead corpse which is the current Labour Party, I am disgusted, Labour must denounce his remarks immediately https://t.co/aueTRC3s0x
— Andrew Bridgen (@ABridgen) March 23, 2020
His remarks were condemned by fellow Members of Parliament, with Conservative Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen saying: “Ian Lavery literally salivating at the thought of possibly tens of thousands of our vulnerable citizens perishing because he hopes it might breathe life into the dead corpse which is the current Labour Party, I am disgusted, Labour must denounce his remarks immediately.”
While former Conservative Member of the European Parliament for the East of England David Campbell Bannerman said the remarks were a display of “disgusting and naked opportunism” which “shows why we suddenly have so many social media attacks on Boris and Government handling of Covid-19. Shameful.”
Criticism also came from Lavery’s own party, with one Labour MP telling The Telegraph: “It looks like the chairman of the Labour Party is distastefully using a pandemic which is killing people as a party political opportunity for Labour, which most people would find repulsive.”
Former Labour MP Ian Austin, who left the party over its handling of antisemitism allegations, also called the remarks “shameful”.
This is shameful. https://t.co/alY5CswcLi
— Ian Austin (@IanAustin1965) March 23, 2020
Despite the audio revealing Lavery calling the deadly virus a “great opportunity” for political activism, the Labour MP claimed that the reporting was “intentionally misleading”.
He continued in the defence of his remarks: “I’ve spoken about the opportunity for people to get out there and help their local communities and those in need. Nonsense to suggest otherwise. We all need to do our bit to get through this crisis.”
The Guido Twitter account responded to Mr Lavery, saying: “Spin all you like, here’s what you said, readers can judge for themselves.”
This would not be the first time a member of the Labour Party exploited the coronavirus crisis for political gain, with leadership contender Lisa Nandy saying that due to the pandemic the Brexit transition period “must” be extended — a pet political project before the virus was ever heard of.
Labour’s Nandy: UK ‘Must’ Extend Brexit Transition Period Because of Coronavirus https://t.co/sMVtTFSXdQ
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 10, 2020