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Andrew Bridgen threatens to sue Matt Hancock for £100,000 over Covid vaccine row

Bridgen was stripped of Tory whip for comments condemned by the former health secretary

Andy Gregory
Thursday 26 January 2023 15:52 GMT
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has whip removed after comparing Covid vaccines to Holocaust

Former Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has threatened to sue Matt Hancock for £100,000 in a row over his remarks appearing to compare the coronavirus vaccine rollout to the Holocaust.

In a “letter before action”, backed by Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party, Mr Bridgen has reportedly said he wants the ex-health secretary to apologise and pay damages to a legal fund for those “seeking collective redress for vaccine harms”.

A fortnight ago, the North West Leicestershire MP was stripped of the Tory whip after claiming in a tweet on 11 January that Covid jabs were “causing serious harms” and that he had been told the rollout was “the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust”.

Matt Hancock criticised Andrew Bridgen’s remarks on Covid vaccines (PA Wire)

His comments were condemned across the political spectrum, with Rishi Sunak branding them “completely unacceptable” and his chief whip Simon Hart accusing Mr Bridgen of having “crossed a line” and “caused great offence in the process”.

Mr Hancock raised the remarks in the Commons – at a time when Mr Bridgen himself was suspended from the chamber – and accused his colleague of spouting “disgusting antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories”, later sharing footage of his speech to Twitter.

Two days later, Mr Bridgen alleged Mr Hancock’s tweet “falsely alleging that I am antisemitic” was “defamatory”, adding: “I will allow Matt three days to apologise publicy for calling me an antisemite and racist or he will be contacted by my legal team.”

Mr Bridgen confirmed on Thursday that he has since sent Mr Hancock a “letter before action”, via right-wing campaigner Laurence Fox’s Bad Law Project.

According to the Daily Telegraph, that letter alleges: “By inclusion of the phrases ‘antisemitic’, ‘anti-vax’, ‘anti-scientific’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ the words are defamatory at common law.”

Tory peer Lord Pickles recounts harrowing WWII story as he hits out at Andrew Bridgen

Mr Bridgen wants Mr Hancock to apologise, and “retract and delete the defamatory statement contained in the tweet complained of with immediate effect”, according to the letter.

Mr Hancock should also “acknowledge full and final settlement of any prospective claim in the form of a payment of £100,000 – to be transferred into a legal fund on behalf of persons seeking collective redress for vaccine harms (under the UK Government’s Vaccine Damages Payment Scheme)”, according to the letter.

But Mr Hancock is standing by his comments and an aide described the prospective libel case as “absurd”.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock told The Independent: “What Matt said was obviously not libellous and he stands by his comments.

“Rather than wasting his time and money on an absurd libel case he will undoubtedly lose, let’s hope Bridgen does the right thing and apologises for the hurt he’s caused and keeps his offensive view to himself in future.”

The Independent reported a fortnight ago that Mr Bridgen had “bombarded” cabinet ministers with claims about coronavirus vaccines prior to losing the Tory whip.

Earlier that week, the House of Commons voted unopposed to suspend Mr Bridgen from the chamber for five days for breaching lobbying rules and breaking the MPs’ code of conduct.

On Thursday, a 61-year-old man was charged with assaulting Mr Hancock on the London Underground, along with two public order offences.

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