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Rees-Mogg apologises for comparing no deal medical expert to Andrew Wakefield

Jacob Rees-Mogg has apologised for likening a neurologist who warned about no-deal Brexit-related deaths to Dr Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who linked the MMR vaccine to autism in the 1990s.

Mr Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, was subject to widespread criticism for comparing Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist to Dr Wakefield.

The BMA has condemned Mr Rees-Mogg, saying his latest insult was ’utterly disgraceful’ and 'totally irresponsible'.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: 'I am afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicholl is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield. I will repeat: as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield, in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union.'

Dr Nicholl wrote the medical section of the Government's Operation Yellowhammer document, outlining the potential consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

The Conservative MP's comments are protected by parliamentary privilege, but Dr Nicholl threatened to sue Mr Rees-Mogg if he repeated his comments outside Parliament,

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ’Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest insult about Dr David Nicholl is utterly disgraceful and totally irresponsible.

’Highly experienced doctors like David Nicholl who decide to speak out about risks to life and patient care, should be supported and listened to, not attacked and derided by those who hold positions of responsibility.

’This unwarranted attack is particularly galling as Mr Rees-Mogg belongs to the same government that called upon Dr Nicholl’s expertise to help draft medical opinion for Operation Yellowhammer and who also wrote the mitigations for the event of a no-deal.’

The comparison to Dr Wakefield was also criticised by England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who wrote a letter to him saying: 'I feel compelled to express my sincere disappointment in the disrespectful way you spoke to and about Dr David Nicholl.'

She added that comparing an established medical expert to a doctor who was struck off the register is 'going too far' and 'frankly unacceptable'.

In a statement, Mr Rees-Mogg apologised and said he has the 'utmost respect' for medical professionals around the country.

He said: 'I apologise to Dr Nicholl for the comparison with Dr Wakefield.

'I have the utmost respect for all of the country’s hardworking medical professionals and the work they do in caring for the people of this country.

'The government is working closely with the NHS, industry and distributors to help ensure the supply of medicine and medical products remains uninterrupted once we leave the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.'

Health secretary Matt Hancock added that his job is to 'stick up for doctors' and he was 'glad' Mr Rees-Mogg apologised.

Readers' comments (14)

  • Entirely right and proper that he should apologize.

    He ought to concentrate his efforts at getting a backbone so a) isn't seen slouching b) doing what he's paid for by you and I, namely sorting Brexit

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ha ha ha
    Red Skull
    After Agent Hunt , MojoBojo, he is another one I absolutely ‘love’ .

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  • ''In a statement, Mr Rees-Mogg apologised and said he has the 'utmost respect' for medical professionals around the country".

    Doesn't need much forensic examination to see that the above is a complete lie.

    I might not be protected by parliamentary privilege, but what a complete and utter arsehole that Jacob Rees-Mogg fellow is.

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  • Having met and worked with Dr Nicholl, Rees-Mogg is right; both believe in ideologies unsupported by evidence.

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  • But what forced this patrician to forget his principle of et portare super vos tacebitis (or, keep calm and carry on, as we commoners say), lose his aplomb and utter such a truly libellous statement. According to the BBC, Dr Nicholl called in to LBC Radio and asked Mr Rees-Mogg "what mortality rate he would accept if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal."
    In effect, Dr Nicholl was accusing Mr Rees-Mogg of planning a genocide. If this becomes a court case, my guess is that Mr Rees-Mogg’s barrister would use extreme provocation as mitigatory defence, alleging total loss of control as a response to Mr Nichol's apocalypse II statement (masquerading as question), that identified Mr Rees-Mogg with Dr Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor in Auschwitz concentration camp. He could add: Is Dr Nicholl, a firm Europhile, the right person to contribute to an “independent” report?

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  • Whatever your views on this case.....I read an opinion on-line suggesting that
    Rees-Mogg is a "buffoon that rather resembles General Melchett from Blackadder in his behaviour"
    I specifically do not want to be governed by such an "imbecile" and would "ignore his views and opinions on anything of importance other than how to run a 1930s public school"
    Just go away Rees-Mogg and leave us all alone, do you get the message.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Some interesting points here :
    (1) When Red Skull made his official apology OUTSIDE HoCs , was he apologising for the part about ‘ being irresponsible’ or the comparison with Wakefield or both ? Bear in mind , the former could be a fair comment based on assumption of ‘scaremongering’ and the latter is potentially defamatory.
    (2) Obviously , we remember well the story of Wakefield who was ultimately investigated and struck off by GMC . Did Red Skull imply that this neurologist colleague should be treated by GMC in the same way .
    (3) Parliamentary privilege, no doubt , is an essential right bestowed to parliamentarians to speak and debate freely in House of Commons but yet the liberty to express is not indefinite with no restrictions and in fact , is still under supervision :
    ‘’The rights and privileges of members are overseen by the powerful Committee on Standards and Privileges. If a member of the House is in breach of the rules then he/she can be suspended or even expelled from the House. Such past breaches have included giving false evidence before a committee of the House and the taking of bribes by members.’’(Wikipedia).
    That probably explains , to some degree , why Red Skull realised that he had to apologise.
    (4) Furthermore, being the leader of of HoCs , he is no longer an ordinary parliamentarian and possesses additional power and authority. Is his opinion then representing the common consensus of the House or is this merely an insouciant , self-pleasure driven ‘ejaculation’ of words which had objectively alienated a medical professional who also enjoys freedom of speech as an ordinary citizen?
    (5) The morality and code of conduct of this government and its cabinet members are now subjected to serious scrutiny in the eyes of the public , especially when the leader of the House had repeatedly acted with disrespectful demeanour, starting from reclining himself over three seats in the HoCs during a serious session of debate .

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  • I think he should wear his top hat all the time for dramatic effect...

    just sayin'.

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  • Vinci Ho

    And furthermore , the health secretary wished to play ‘ good cop, bad cop’ tactics by claiming to be glad for the apology .
    Please give us a break and look at your own mirror , you are only a Robocop , not really a good one after all , LOL

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  • Seems at present politicians have moved so far up their own arses and entrenched in their own views they forget that anyone else can actually hold and express a valid opinion. JR-M really needs to pull his socks up if he expects any respect. Arrogance is now ruling debate not argument and fact.

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