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Who’s for Dinner? Andrew Bridgen and the Conspiracy Theorists

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Katherine Denkinson dips into the strange blend of pseudoscience, QAnon and GB News on the menu at a much-publicised Carlton Club dinner

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Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen had the whip removed after he compared COVID vaccinations to the Holocaust. Bridgen has been edging his way into the anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown community for months but recently opted to reward their continued friendship by taking a number of well-known anti-vax doctors and high-profile anti-vaxxers to dinner at the exclusive Carlton Club. 

The benefits of this for the anti-vax community are obvious – legitimacy has always been the holy grail for conspiracists – but what are Bridgen and the Conservative party really getting from it? The anti-vax movement is not large enough to lift their voting figures back to what they were and most MPs are vocally pro-vaccine. 

Image: Twitter

The key is John Mappin who jointly issued the invitation. Pictured above on Bridgen’s table with his wife, Irena, Mappin is a QAnon-promoting, Trump-supporting Scientologist with his own media group. He funded the transplant of the far-right US student group Turning Point to the UK. The launch event of TPUK, labelled a “Gathering of Political Genius”, took place in 2018 and guests included Nigel Farage and filmmaker Amanda Eliasch. Both of whom were present at Bridgen’s Carlton Club gathering this week.

Eliasch shared photographs of the night on social media which included the Bridgen group, Farage, and her friend Lady Victoria Hervey. Eliasch is also a family friend of the Grant sisters. Alice Grant began her political career as an ambassador for TPUK and is now Head of Education for the Orthodox Conservative Group; a youth group with strong links to both parliament and GB News, dedicated to pushing the Conservative party further to the Right. 

The TPUK connection to GB News was well-represented at Bridgen’s evening with Dominique Samuels also present. Currently, a presenter for GB News, Samuels has come under fire for tweeting ill-advised conspiracy theories about the pandemic and promoting the “Died Suddenly” film – with its false claims of a high number of deaths supposedly caused by the vaccine.

Dr Aseem Malhotra (left) and Dr Robert Malone (right) speaking at the Carlton Club event

Also present was Dr Aseem Malhotra. Malhotra’s fame grew in 2018 after the publication of his Pioppi Diet book, which advocated for more fats and fewer carbs, earned him the consternation of the British Heart Foundation and the British Dietetics Foundation who added it to their Top 5 Worst Diets list.

Apparently undeterred, Malhotra continued his diet-based misinformation at the beginning of the pandemic – suggesting his new book (The 21 Day Immunity Plan) could reduce peoples’ likelihood of catching COVID-19. Soundly debunked by doctors, who pointed out that age was the primary factor in catching the illness, he eventually switched to the view that the vaccines were killing people.

Full Fact debunked this shortly after, announcing that a few dozen people have died as a result of the vaccine but a far greater number had been saved. Both Malhotra and Bridgen have been vaccinated. 

The determination of both Bridgen and the right-wing media establishment to endear themselves to conspiracy theorists involves the same tactics as the far right, who also jumped on the COVID-19 bandwagon to grow their own supporter base.

By summer last year, far-right groups apparently convinced antivaxxers that Drag Queen Story Hour was a front for the normalisation of paedophilia. This line is also being promoted by TPUK, who posted a meme earlier this year of GB News presenter Calvin Robinson’s comment – “ask not what your children want with drag queens, but what drag queens want with your children”. 

Unwilling to openly associate with the actual Far Right (and vociferously denying the anti-semitism of comparing vaccines to the Holocaust), Bridgen seems more than content to utilise their methods to lure in fearful conspiracists and hard Right mouthpieces alike.

The question now is, where are they leading the Conservatives and does Sunak have the strength or the will to take back control of his party from hard Right sympathisers and conspiracists?


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