Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for suggesting that victims of the Grenfell tower tragedy lacked “common sense” by following the advice of the fire brigade to stay in their homes and wait to be rescued.
A damning first phase report from the inquiry into the Grenfell Fire was released last week. Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report found that “more lives could have been saved” if London Fire Brigade (LFB) had revoked its “stay put” advice while the stairs were still accessible.
The fire, in June 2017 led to the deaths of 72 people and left hundreds more homeless.
Speaking on LBC, Rees-Mogg told host Nick Ferrari: “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.”
His comments were heavily criticised and calls were made for the leader of the House of Commons to apologise.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn 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.”
And campaign group Grenfell United said: “The Leader of the House of Commons suggesting that the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell lacked common sense is beyond disrespectful. It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”
In a statement, Rees-Mogg later apologised for his comments, saying: “I profoundly apologise. 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.”
Sarah Jones MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, was among those who condemned Rees-Mogg’s remarks to LBC. She said: “These are appalling comments. Jacob Rees-Mogg should retract them and apologise immediately.
“Statements like this just go to show how out of touch the Tories are and are a glaring admission of their failure to act in the interest of the Grenfell victims and their families.”
Yvette Williams, chair of campaign group Justice4Grenfell added: “Rees-Mogg has a privileged background, what is his experience of living in social housing? How many tower blocks has he lived in?
“To suggest that those who followed ‘his’ party’s instructions were not using ‘common sense’ is an absolute insult.”