A Tory MP who refused to apologise for misleading comments about Covid-19 may still face disciplinary action by his party, Michael Gove has hinted.
Sir Desmond Swayne wrongly told a group of vaccine sceptics that some Covid-19 data had been “manipulated” while encouraging them to “persist” with their campaign against lockdown restrictions.
Gove, a cabinet minister, said to “watch this space” on Saturday when asked if Sir Desmond would be let off without being disciplined.
Sir Desmond has so far declined to retract his remarks despite Gove branding him “completely out of order”, and home secretary Priti Patel saying he was “thoroughly wrong”.
The Conservative Party has so far not disciplined Sir Desmond but has asked him to attend meetings with scientific advisers.
Sir Desmond told the Save Our Rights UK group, which argues wrongly that vaccines are “being rushed through safety testing” and has posted discussions online with conspiracy theorist David Icke, that some Covid-19 figures have been “manipulated” and called on campaigners to “persist” in their campaign.
The Tory backbencher has been a vocal critic of lockdown and claimed No 10’s actions amounted to the UK becoming a “police state”.
Sir Desmond has said he is an “evangelical” supporter of the vaccine programme.
Asked to comment on Sir Desmond’s remarks on Sky News, Gove told reporters to “watch this space”.
“I can’t pre-empt any decision-making but I think it’s important that the processes that the Conservative Party has are in place in order to make sure, as I’m sure he will, that Sir Desmond apologises and recognises he made a mistake,” he said.
But Sir Desmond remained defiant on Saturday.
He told the PA news agency: “When I’ve got a specific request to apologise for something then I can consider it, but for the moment my understanding is the accusation is that I gave comfort and encouraged anti-vaxxers, my answer to that is that I did not.”