Tory MP Andrew Bridgen says Jacob Rees-Mogg is cleverer than Grenfell fire victims

By Zamira Rahim

A Conservative MP has suggested Jacob Rees-Mogg is cleverer than the Grenfell Tower fire victims, prompting widespread fury.

Andrew Bridgen was attempting to defend his colleague during an interview on Radio 4, when he said voters wanted “very clever people” running the country.

He was speaking hours after Mr Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, said the 72 people who died in the blaze lacked the “common sense” to flee the building during an interview on Tuesday.

The victims were advised to remain in the building by the fire brigade, as is the usual process for tower blocks.

“If you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer,” the politician said while talking to Nick Ferrari on LBC. 

“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.”

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments were instantly condemned by politicians, celebrities including Stormzy and the Grenfell United support group.

The politician later apologised but Mr Bridgen’s comments have only intensified the scandal.

“You think [Jacob Rees-Mogg] mean to say that he thought he would not have stayed put?” Evan Davis, a BBC presenter, asked Mr Bridgen during the Tuesday evening interview.

“That’s what he meant to say, that’s what he meant to say,” Mr Bridgen said.

Mr Davis said: “But that in a way is exactly what people object to, because he is, in effect saying I wouldn’t have died than the people who took the fire brigade’s advice.”

The MP paused, before saying: “But we want very clever people running the country, don’t we Evan?”

“That’s a byproduct of what Jacob is and that’s why he is in a position of authority.”

The MP’s interview, likely meant to subdue the scandal, has only caused more anger.

“Gross superiority. Unforgivable,” said David Lammy, the Labour MP, in reaction to the clip.

Nick Boles, the independent MP for Grantham and Stanford, also condemned Mr Bridgen’s comments.

“I didn’t think my opinion of Andrew Bridgen could sink any lower. But he clearly thinks that people who live in council housing are of inferior stock,” the former Conservative MP said.

Andrew Bridgen apologised on Wednesday morning.

“I realise that what I said was wrong and caused a great deal of distress and offence,” he said on Twitter.

“It was not my intention to do so, and I do not want to add in any way to the pain that this tragic event has caused. I apologise unreservedly.”

The Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) previously said Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments were “crass and insensitive.”

“Residents were thrown into a terrifying, impossible situation at Grenfell,” said general secretary Matt Wrack.

“For Mr Rees-Mogg to suggest it would be ‘common sense’ to ignore the advice that they were given was crass and insensitive. It was also callously irresponsible for a senior government figure to suggest that the public should ignore firefighters when they are in a fire.”

The controversy has overshadowed the start of the Conservative Party’s 2019 election campaign.