Wed, 05 Feb 2020
THE leader of Thatcham Town Council has been criticised for tweeting about a supposed link between coronavirus and Brexit.
David Lister, (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) tweeted on Thursday: “What’s the chance of Brexit government minister introducing a deadly virus that disproportionately affects men aged over 55 on Brexit day?”
In his tweet Mr Lister referred to British citizens evacuated from Wuhan province in China on Friday, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who used to be the Brexit minister.
Mr Lister tweeted: “Let’s say it’s called the #BrexitVirus. Step forward Dominic Raab.”
A flight carrying 150 Britons flew from China to RAF Brize Norton on the same day the UK officially left the European Union.
Mr Lister later tweeted: “I mean really, just what is the chance of this happening?
“It couldn’t be scripted.
“Raab has a lot to take credit for in coordinating this for Brexit Day.”
Former Conservative MP for Newbury Richard Benyon criticised Mr Lister, calling the post “disgraceful”.
Mr Benyon said: “If a member of my local party had tweeted something so unpleasant, I would have insisted on their expulsion.
“Time to bring people on both sides of Brexit together.”
This was echoed by West Berkshire Council’s executive member for the environment and Thatcham town councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham).
Mr Ardagh-Walter said: “Obnoxious and unacceptable, particularly from an elected councillor.”
Mr Lister said he had been “misrepresented”.
In a statement, he said: “Coronavirus is not a joke.
“It is a serious risk and people should be aware if they are in the risk group.
“The repatriation could have happened before or after [January 31].
“I just said, what was the chance of it happening on that day organised by the ex-Brexit secretary.
“[The tweets] have been totally misrepresented by a few people, who are claiming something that wasn’t said, for political mischief.”
Mr Lister has since apologised.