Former health secretary accused Tory MP of ‘anti-Semitic, anti-vax conspiracy theories’ after he compared vaccines to Holocaust
Andrew Bridgen is suing Matt Hancock for £100,000 over a Twitter message in which the former health secretary accused him of spouting “anti-Semitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories” about the Covid vaccine.
Mr Bridgen, who lost the Conservative whip over comments he made about the vaccine this month, wants Mr Hancock to pay damages to a legal fund for “people seeking collective redress for vaccine harms”.
The row centres around a Twitter message posted by Mr Bridgen on Jan 11 in which he wrote: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”
The post was above another Twitter message from an Israeli doctor, which questioned the safety of Covid vaccines.
Mr Hancock condemned Mr Bridgen’s remarks on Twitter the same day, saying “the disgusting and dangerous anti-Semitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories spouted by a sitting MP this morning are unacceptable and have absolutely no place in our society”.
Mr Bridgen denied the comment was “racist” or “anti-Semitic” and said he would be “speaking to a legal team who will commence action against those who have led the call suggesting that I am”.
He posted on Twitter on Jan 13 that Mr Hancock had “still not removed his defamatory tweet falsely alleging that I am anti-Semitic. I will allow Matt three days to apologise publicly for calling me an anti-Semite and racist or he will be contacted by my legal team”.
In a letter to Mr Hancock five days later on Jan 18, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Bridgen’s legal team set out the claim against Mr Hancock and the demand for damages.
It said: “By inclusion of the phrases ‘anti-Semitic’, ‘anti-vax’, ‘anti-scientific’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ the words are defamatory at common law.”
According to the seven-page “letter before action”, Mr Bridgen wants Mr Hancock to “retract and delete the defamatory statement contained in the tweet complained of with immediate effect”.
The letter said he should “apologise for the tweet complained of – both orally in the House of Commons – and in writing on Mr Hancock’s personal Twitter account”.
Mr Hancock should “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)”, it said.
Mr Bridgen’s legal action is being funded by the Reclaim Party and the “Bad Law Project”.
Laurence Fox, the leader of Reclaim, said: “The Reclaim Party and the ‘Bad Law Project’ is providing its full support to Mr Bridgen and we want a full apology from Mr Hancock. It’s an issue of free speech, transparency and compassion for those suffering vaccine harms.”
Mr Hancock’s spokesman told The Telegraph: “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.”