Backlash as Ann Widdecombe calls for people to return to work even if social distancing cannot be enforced
PUBLISHED: 12:39 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 14 May 2020
Former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe is facing intense public backlash after she called for people to use public transport to get to work, even if social distancing rules could not be enforced.
Become a Supporter
Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only continue to grow with your support.
Widdecombe made the comment during an appearance on Good Morning Britain (GMB) with former government scientific adviser Sir David King and transport union boss for RMT, Mick Cash.
The former Tory minister and Brexiteer insisted ‘young and healthy’ Britons should return to work as soon as possible and use public transport to get to and from their workplace.
“It is crucial. Crucial, that those who are healthy get the economy moving again,” she told the panel, urging commuters to use ‘common sense’ when travelling.
Morgan hit back, saying: “If you leave it to common sense as we’re seeing, people just forget.
“In my opinion, if you’re going to make stay people two meters apart, you need to enforce it. You’ve got to have people on the train system, on the bus system, enforcing it otherwise as we’ve seen, people ignore it.”
Widdecombe insisted people could stay protected from the virus in packed trains and buses by keeping their head down or wearing a face covering.
“What I was saying was that where you have no choice then you’ve just got to use as many precautions you can in that situation,” she argued before admitting it was impossible to enforce the two meter rule in packed tubes.
“If we don’t get the economy going there are going to be huge long-term health problems as well as economic problems.”
Morgan question the logic of letting young people return to work if they, in turn, risked infecting the elderly. Widdecombe said the country would have to wait “in due course” to see the impact of such a move.
The spotlight then turn to Sir Dave who stressed the UK simply was not ready for people to the workplace.
“If we want to get the economy moving quickly, which we all want to see. If we want to minimise the number of deaths in the community at large... [then] do not immerge into the full working place until we have everything under control,” he said.
“At the moment, the test, trace capability of the country is simply not up to it.”
Twitter users reacted to Widdecombe’s comments with both bafflement and fury.
One said: “Libertarians are a death cult. Pandemics spread from individuals to the collective, you can’t opt out to show your individualism. Selfish negligence.”
@virgosam70 tweeted: “Ann Widdecombe on the telly speaking to us from a deserted beach in Devon telling people in big cities to get on trains and buses immediately, putting themselves in danger. Unions are the enemies of the great British public and are bringing the country to its knees apparently.”
Baurice Canine wrote: “She needs to do a shift in a care home.”
Questioning the call for the public to use ‘common sense’, another wrote: “If you’re in a situation where you don’t feel that it’s safe to your health you have to take precautions. It’s called common sense.”
At the start of the epidemic the Brexiteer was roundly criticised for claiming coronavirus will be like AIDS - “not as devastating as first feared”.
Become a Supporter
Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.Become a supporter