By: Sam Doak
March 21 2023
Footage of this incident makes it clear that MPs chose to leave on their own accord.
On Friday March 17, 2023, British MP Andrew Bridgen addressed his parliamentary colleagues. Speaking on the topic of alleged vaccine-related harms, Bridgen accused the media of failing to cover dangers related to COVID-19 vaccines and asked why this matter was not being addressed by the government.
As Bridgen was speaking, several MPs began leaving the chamber. Ultimately, only a small handful remained present to hear Bridgen's remarks. In the days since, clips showing MPs exiting were circulated widely online by those skeptical of vaccine efficacy and safety.
The narrative that vaccine skeptics have put forward is that fellow MP Andrew Mitchell forced his parliamentary colleagues to leave while Bridgen began speaking. A clip purportedly showing this has been circulated with the caption, "The Government Minister who instructed MPs to leave the Chamber when Andrew Bridgen began his vaccine efficacy/harms speech was Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield." Since this was posted, it has been retweeted over 3,800 times.
The clip in question is composed of official footage published on parliamentlive.tv. It has been zoomed in so viewers can only see Mitchell crossing the chamber and speaking to two MPs, who leave shortly after. While this could give viewers the impression these MPs chose to leave because of Bridgen, the full recording on parliamentlive.tv makes it clear that this is not what occurred.
Bridgen made his comments through what is termed an "adjournment debate." According to Parliament.com, these occur at the end of a parliamentary sitting and serve as "an opportunity for an individual backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister." The full video showing Bridgen's remarks makes it clear that MPs begin preparing to leave at the beginning of Bridgen's adjournment debate, which is perhaps unsurprising as this is the last piece of business that was considered during this day. Crucially, the two MPs in question prepared to exit before Mitchell approached them.
It should be further noted that one of the MPs, Layla Moran, is a Liberal Democrat MP. As Andrew Mitchell is a Conservative MP, it is unclear under what authority he would be able to instruct Moran to leave the chamber.
Bridgen has made numerous false claims about vaccine safety in recent months. He was suspended by the Conservative Party in January for comparing vaccine rollouts to the holocaust.
Andrew Bridgen's comments were the last contribution scheduled for March 17. Video of this event makes it clear that MPs decided to leave on their own accord as he began addressing the house. This claim has therefore been marked as false.