Tory MPs who tried to use the terrorist attacks in Brussels to score political points in the Budget debate were branded “unacceptable” this afternoon.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge and his colleague Tom Tugendhat both hit out at John McDonnell after the Shadow Chancellor condemned the attacks in Brussels, which have left at least 34 dead.
Both Tories were riled up when McDonnell questioned Chancellor George Osborne’s “fitness for office”, after his Budget debacle led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The pair claimed McDonnell should apologise for previous comments he made about the IRA, including that the “bravery and sacrifice” by those in the terrorist organisation should be honoured.
Cartlidge was first on his feet, and drew cries of “shame” and “that’s shocking” from the Labour benches as he said to McDonnell: “He makes a very personal point about fitness for office on the day of a terrorist attack.
“Will he withdraw his previous support for terrorist organisations that have attacked this country?”
McDonnell responded: “You heard me share the sentiments of the whole House on the issue of Belgium.
“To bring that into the debate as a political point at this stage is unacceptable.”
A few minutes later Tugendhat, who represents Tonbridge and Malling, got to his feet and said: “The Honourable Member has called into question the morality of the leadership of the chancellor.
“Would he please discuss this House the morality that allows him to stand with bombers who murdered my friends in Northern Ireland and questions the integrity of the Chancellor?”
Speaker John Bercow, who had already warned Tory MPs not to “shout down” the Shadow Chancellor, was quick to intervene, and said: “Before we proceed further, perhaps I can just say to the House, on my own account and on the basis of sound procedural advice, that we must stick to the matter of the Budget.”
Tugendhat later took to Twitter to explain his comments:
But not everyone felt the comments were justified:
Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who is calling for the UK to leave the EU, described Brussels as the “jihadist capital of Europe” and asked how “remainers dare to say we’re safer in the EU!” just hours after the attacks began.