Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne made the comments during an emergency debate in the House of Commons about the UK’s response to, and role in, the crisis in Afghanistan.
In an implicit criticism of those trying to escape Kabul, Swayne, the MP for New Forest West, told Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that if the UK was taken over by the Taliban, Starmer would “want a leading role in the resistance,” and wouldn’t be “queuing at the airport.”
“Were the government of this kingdom to be overthrown by a wicked and brutal regime, I venture that he would want a leading role in the resistance,” said Swayne, “he wouldn’t be queuing at the airport would he?”
Starmer was quick to rebuke the comment, saying, “When I was director of public prosecutions I had some of my prosecutors in Afghanistan at huge risk working on counterterrorism with other brave souls there,” said Starmer. “So I won’t take that from him or anybody else.”
The comment was met with shouts of “disgrace” in the chamber.
Labour MPs condemned the remark. Backbencher Charlotte Nichols tweeted: “Absolutely vile intervention from Sir Desmond Swayne in the #AfghanistanDebate...the lack of humanity is staggering.”
The tense scenes came today as politicians returned to parliament to debate the country’s response to the Taliban’s lightning-fast conquest of Afghanistan, as US and other Western troops withdrew.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced criticism from his party as he addressed MPs and said that the UK could not have remained in Afghanistan without “American might.”
Johnson announced the government would be doubling the aid budget to Afghanistan to £286 million, though this number will still be lower than 2019 aid levels.
The UK announced on Tuesday it would resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, with 5,000 to be accepted this year.