Jacob Rees-Mogg forced to apologise after suggesting Grenfell fire victims lacked ‘common sense’
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he is "profoundly" sorry amid an outcry after he suggested the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire lacked “common sense”.
The House of Commons leader told LBC radio that the 72 people who died in the blaze should have ignored firefighters’ advice to remain in their homes and instead leave the burning building.
His comment came after a report into the fire last week found that more lives could have been saved were it not for a delay in revoking London Fire Brigade’s “stay put” policy.
Mr Rees-Mogg told presenter Nick Ferrari: “The tragedy came about because of the cladding, leading to the fire racing up the building and then was compounded by the stay put policy and it seems to me that is the tragedy of it.
“The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer.
“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. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”
The comments drew strong condemnation form Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with Jeremy Corbyn calling on the Cabinet minsiter to apologise.
The Labour leader said: “What possesses someone to react to an entirely avoidable tragedy like Grenfell by saying the victims lacked common sense? People were terrified, many died trying to escape.
“Jacob Rees Mogg must apologise for these crass and insensitive comments immediately.”
Labour MP David Lammy meanwhile asked: “How dare you insult and denigrate those who died in Grenfell Tower Jacob Rees-Mogg?
“The victims of this crime of gross negligence followed the instructions they were given by the fire authorities. Do not blame them.
“Your arrogance and condescension is monstrous.”
Lib Dem MP Sam Gyimah, who is standing for election in the Kensington constituency where Grenfell Tower is situated, tweeted: “Insensitive and disgraceful for Jacob Rees-Mogg to suggest the victims of the Grenfell tragedy lacked ‘common sense’.
“Our duty as public servants is for the truth to be laid bare, for justice to be done, and to ensure this never happens again.”
And Emma Dent-Coad, the current MP for Kensington, told PoliticsHome: "Rees-Mogg has confirmed by his comments precisely what we already thought about him. He is an out-of-touch elitist with no care or interest in his fellow human beings less fortunate than himself."
In a statement issued minutes after Cabinet broke up for the final time before December's election, the Leader of the Commons said: "I profoundly apologise."
He added: “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.
"What’s so sad is that the advice given overrides common sense because everybody would want to leave a burning building.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments. With hindsight and after reading the report no one would follow that advice. That’s the great tragedy."