Jacob Rees-Mogg caused a “huge amount of hurt and distress” in his comments about the Grenfell Tower fire, the Conservative Party chairman has said.
James Cleverly said the Commons Leader had done the “right thing” by apologising after he suggested Grenfell victims should have used “common sense” and ignored fire service guidance not to leave the burning tower block.
Mr Rees-Mogg has faced widespread criticism, including from Grenfell survivors and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, after he said people are safer if they “just ignore what you’re told and leave”, while discussing London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) “stay-put” policy.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused him of having shown an “arrogance” with his comments, telling the BBC: “There was one staircase. What were they meant to do? Run out of the building with firefighters running up the same staircase?”
She said some residents had rung emergency services a host of times during the fateful evening in 2017 and were told to stay put.
“It reflects an arrogance about Jacob Rees-Mogg that is not going to help the Tories at this election.”
Mr Cleverly said: “Jacob recognises that what he said was wrong and caused a huge amount of hurt and distress.
“He has apologised unreservedly and I do think that is the right thing for him to do.”
The Conservative Party chairman said no-one could “credibly” know what decisions those “trapped” in the tower faced that evening.
“I don’t think anyone could think through the circumstances or the decisions we would make,” he added.
Mr Corbyn, in a speech in Telford, accused the Tories of of thinking the victims of Grenfell died “because they didn’t have the common sense to save themselves”.
“I’ll tell you what’s common sense: don’t put flammable cladding on people’s homes. That’s common sense.
“Don’t close fire stations and don’t cut firefighters. That’s common sense.
“And don’t ignore residents when they tell you their home is a death trap, don’t ignore them – listen to them.”
On Tuesday, Number 10 was forced to say that the Prime Minister still had confidence in Mr Rees-Mogg, after he said: “I profoundly apologise. What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time.
“However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t, and I don’t think anyone else would.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments.”