A Labour MP has said Boris Johnson is “sending people to catch the coronavirus”.
As some Brits returned to work on Wednesday after encouragement from the government, backbencher Dawn Butler said the prime minister’s actions were “pretty disgraceful”.
However, Butler was accused of using “disgraceful language” herself following her accusation against Johnson.
As the government partially lifted the lockdown, it said those people who can’t work from home should start returning to their workplaces.
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Amid reports of some packed buses and Tubes on Wednesday morning, Brent Central MP Butler, appearing on Jeremy Vine on 5, said: “The prime minister was reckless on Sunday in literally sending people to catch the virus – but the chancellor [Rishi Sunak] has done the right thing [in extending the furlough scheme].”
Iain Dale, a conservative commentator appearing on the show alongside Butler, asked: “What on earth do you mean by that? Are you saying he’s deliberately wanting people to catch the virus?
“[Labour leader] Keir Starmer has held the government to account, but done it in a cross-party way, and I think phrases like that are pretty disgraceful.”
Butler, whose uncle died from COVID-19 after becoming infected in hospital, responded: “I think the PM’s actions are pretty disgraceful, and yes he is sending people out to catch the virus – many people in my constituency out to catch the virus – when he is telling people to go to work without the proper infrastructure in place. When he is sending people to go to work with mixed messaging.
“That is irresponsible and if you want to be disgusted at somebody, be disgusted at the PM.”
Dale countered: “He hasn’t told people to go back to work, he has asked people to go back to work in a safe way. I don’t know whether you think we should lock down the whole economy for the rest of the year?
“Let’s cut this disgraceful language because no other politician is doing it.”
Butler is one of two MPs for Brent, which as of Tuesday had the seventh highest number of coronavirus cases – 1,419 – out of all local authorities in England.
Brent also has the 10th highest coronavirus infection rate – 429 per 100,000 people – in England.
Butler said: “I have a higher death rate than a lot of other MPs, so excuse me if I am going to be passionate about this, because I want my constituents to survive this pandemic.”
Butler, who has represented Brent as an MP since 2005, stood in Labour’s deputy leadership contest earlier this year. She finished fifth of the five candidates.