Richard Bacon: Conservative MP suggests NHS staff 'let their hair down'

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Richard Bacon said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should not be "condemned"

A Conservative MP has defended Boris Johnson and suggested it was likely NHS staff had also been "letting their hair down" during the Covid pandemic.

Richard Bacon was speaking after Sue Gray's report highlighted the extent of lockdown parties at Downing Street.

Mr Bacon, who represents South Norfolk, said the prime minister should not be "condemned".

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting called for Mr Bacon to withdraw the statement and apologise.

In her 37-page report, senior civil servant Ms Gray said many events "should not have been allowed" and the PM and his officials "must bear responsibility for this culture".

Reacting to the report, Mr Bacon said: "The fact that [Mr Johnson] goes round thanking his staff for working very, very hard, 18 hours a day, to try and keep the show on the road when we were in a global pandemic is not, I think, a crime.

"And I don't think it's something he should be condemned for and I certainly don't think it's something he should resign for. I support Boris."

'Huge pressure'

In the interview with BBC Look East on Wednesday, he was asked if he was "comfortable" with the revelations around the drinking and partying at Downing Street during lockdown.

He replied: "No, of course I'm not but then I think they were working under huge pressure.

"You haven't gone and investigated it but there are one and a half million people who work in the NHS. I bet if you tried hard enough you could find some people letting their hair down who were working 24/7 in the NHS as well.

"We were under extraordinary pressure in a global pandemic where we didn't really know what we were dealing with."

Writing on Twitter, Mr Streeting described the comments as "a grotesque insult to the people who work for the NHS".

Analysis: Nikki Fox, BBC Look East health correspondent

The comments made by Mr Bacon have angered many NHS staff who worked through the pandemic, some of whom transferred to areas like intensive care units that they were completely unfamiliar with.

Many worked overtime and tell me they simply crashed at the end of their shift and fell asleep. Some even slept in caravans to protect relatives.

Staff have told me how they feel disrespected by the comments and have sent me photos of how masks they had to wear for hours on end, caused sores on their noses and faces.

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