Berkshire

Thatcham council leader's coronavirus tweet 'was obnoxious'

Coronavirus (stock image) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thatcham Town Council leader David Lister has been criticised over his tweet on coronavirus and Brexit

A council leader has been criticised for an "obnoxious" tweet that apparently joked about a link between coronavirus and Brexit.

Thatcham Town Council's David Lister appeared to speculate whether Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had "introduced a deadly virus" on Brexit Day.

Conservative West Berkshire councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter said the tweet was "unacceptable" for an elected person.

Liberal Democrat Mr Lister said he had been misrepresented.

His message on Thursday came the day before 83 Britons evacuated from China landed in the UK.

Mr Lister tweeted: "What's the chance of Brexit government minister introducing a deadly virus that disproportionately affects men aged over 55 on Brexit day?" 

He continued: "Let's say it's called the Brexit virus. Step forward Dominic Raab."

Mr Raab was formerly the Brexit minister.

The flight from coronavirus-hit Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton on Friday on the same day as the UK officially left the European Union.

Image caption Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was previously the Brexit secretary

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 called the post "disgraceful", according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

He 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."

Mr Ardagh-Walter commented: "Obnoxious and unacceptable, particularly from an elected councillor."

Image copyright Leon Neal/Getty Images
Image caption Coaches carrying British evacuees from Wuhan as they left RAF Brize Norton for Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral

In a statement Mr Lister 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 [31 January]. 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."

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