Andrew Bridgen apologises for suggesting Jacob Rees-Mogg 'cleverer' than Grenfell Tower victims
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has apologised after suggesting that Jacob Rees-Mogg would have survived the Grenfell Tower tragedy because he is more "clever" than the victims.
The leading Brexiteer spoke out to defend his Conservative colleague after he was criticised for claiming the 72 people who died in the blaze lacked "common sense" for ignoring fire brigade advice to stay in their flats.
Mr Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, later said he was "profoundly" sorry for any offence he had caused.
Appearing on the BBC's PM programme on Tuesday, North West Leicestershire MP Mr Bridgen insisted Mr Rees-Mogg was "an extremely compassionate intelligent human being".
"His comments surrounding Grenfell were uncharacteristically clumsy but I think we have to put it into the context of Jacob," he said.
"Jacob is a leader. He's an authority figure and what he has failed to realise is that in a life-threatening and stressful situation most people will defer to the advice of an authority figure, be that someone from the fire authority or the police, and not come to their own conclusions.
"And as we know, in regards to Grenfell that advice was flawed."
Asked if he was suggesting that Mr Rees-Mogg was "cleverer" than the people who died in the fire, he said: "But we want very clever people running the country, and that is a by-product of what Jacob is. And that is why he is in a position of authority.
"What he is actually saying is 'I would have made a better decision than the authority figures who gave that advice'."
After those comments drew criticism, Mr Bridgen issued an apology of his own on Twitter.
He said: "I realise that what I said was wrong and caused a great deal of distress and offence. 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 latest row is a blow for Boris Johnson as he tries to get the Conseratives' election campaign back on the front foot.