Description of Ottery St Mary Hospital protestors as ‘pack’ branded offensive

Claire Wright and MP Hugo Swire with protesters at Ottery St Mary hospital on Saturday Ref sho 21-16

Claire Wright and MP Hugo Swire with protesters at Ottery St Mary hospital on Saturday Ref sho 21-16SH 4964. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

MP Hugo Swire angers councillors with comment

Words used by MP Hugo Swire to describe Ottery hospital campaigners have been slammed as ‘deeply offensive’ by representatives – who are demanding an apology.

In his Herald column last week, the East Devon MP referred to people who attended a demonstration in the town as ‘the pack’. He was writing to argue community hospitals are not under immediate threat following a protest sparked by concerns that the impending change of ownership casts doubt over the future of the town’s facility.

At an Ottery Town Council meeting on Monday, demonstration organiser Councillor Claire Wright said: “Mr Swire describes Ottery residents as ‘a pack’, which I think is deeply disrespectful of people who care about the future of their hospital.”

She argued that under the new ownership of NHS Property Services, local, cash-strapped NHS would be charged a market rent and if it was unable to pay this, the hospital could be at risk.

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In response, Councillor Roger Giles said: “I find it deeply offensive that the MP for Ottery describes the people who turned out to defend their local hospital as ‘a pack’.”

Many members – some of whom attended the demonstration – agreed with him and Councillor Robin Mitchell added: “I did not attend but it does seem quite outrageous really and I bet he would not have said it if it was a marginal seat.”

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The council unanimously agreed to write a letter to the MP’s office asking for a retraction of his statement.

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