The Conservative chief whip has spoken to MP Sir Desmond Swayne but stopped short of further disciplinary action after the backbencher refused to back down from baseless claims that NHS capacity figures had been manipulated to exaggerate the scale of the pandemic.
Swayne, a former minister, refused to apologise on Thursday after the emergence of a November interview in which he urged a fringe coronavirus deniers’ group, which has suggested the pandemic could be a hoax, to “persist” in protesting against lockdown.
The Save Our Rights UK group has also published videos promoting the theories of David Icke and Piers Corbyn, as well as an interview in which it is claimed that coronavirus is linked to the QAnon conspiracy and that Madonna revealed her awareness of the pandemic at the 2019 Eurovision song contest.
In a Sky News interview on Thursday, Swayne said the situation had “changed completely with the new variant”, but said his remarks in November were “perfectly legitimate at the time”. He earlier told TalkRadio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “We are getting very close to thought crime here, aren’t we?”
Read more: Lying Guardian (Oops I repeat myself): Tories under growing pressure over MP who backed ‘Covid deniers’ and ‘falsely suggested NHS data was manipulated’. ‘Falsely suggested’ you ridiculous people? It’s provable fact