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Shadow attorney general 'very, very sorry' for describing COVID as 'the gift that keeps on giving'

George Martin
·3-min read
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30:  Lord Falconer Shadow Secretary of State for Justice speaks to delegates during a session titled "Stronger, Safer Communities" during the final day of the Labour Party Autumn Conference on September 30, 2015 in Brighton, England. On the final day of the four day annual Labour Party Conference delegates will debate an emergency motion on Syria and discuss matters relating to healthcare and education.  (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Lord Falconer is the current shadow attorney general. (Getty)

Labour's shadow attorney general is "very, very sorry" for describing the pandemic as the “gift that keeps on giving for lawyers”, Ed Miliband has said.

Lord Falconer was said to have used the phrase during a briefing for a top City law firm in June last year, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Miliband, the shadow business secretary, described the it as “a very poor choice of words” and said the peer was sorry for his actions.

Miliband told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: "He shouldn't have said it. He was talking in the context of lawyers and the way the law was changing.

Former British opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband smiles as he arrives at the BBC in central London on December 13, 2020, to appear on the BBC political programme The Andrew Marr Show. - Sunday is just the latest in a string of supposedly hard deadlines for the negotiations but, with Britain due to leave the EU single market in 19 days, tensions are rising. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Ed Miliband defended Lord Falconer. (Getty)

"It was a very poor choice of words. I have spoken to Charlie this morning and he is very, very sorry and apologises for what he said.

"It shows that we have to be careful with our words, all politicians have to be very careful with our words.

"I know Charlie very well and Charlie thinks the country has been through a terrible, terrible trauma and this in no way reflects his view about the COVID crisis."

Read more: Starmer faces questions after denying past Brexit remarks put to him by PM

In the Mail on Sunday recording, Lord Falconer can reportedly be heard telling a room full of lawyers: “This is a gift that keeps on giving.

“The law keeps on changing, keeps on getting more complicated, and is always interesting.”

At the time of the webinar on 29 June, some 43,575 people had died with coronavirus and the UK had the highest death toll in Europe.

Watch: Starmer plays down reports of 'heated' row with PM

It comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer was forced to apologise last week after making false accusations against Boris Johnson during PMQs.

On Wednesday, Starmer’s spokesperson issued an apology from the Labour leader for a misunderstanding, although reiterating that the prime minister had previously been misleading.

“On a number of occasions the prime minister has wrongly claimed that Labour wanted to join the EU’s vaccine programme,” Starmer’s spokesperson said. “That is inaccurate and the claim has been found to be untrue.

“This afternoon during prime minister’s questions, Keir misheard the prime minister and assumed he was making the same false accusation again. Keir accepts that on this occasion the prime minister was referring to old comments about the European Medicines Agency, and Keir admits he was wrong and made a mistake in his response.”

Miliband also dismissed claims on Sunday that something is going wrong with Labour under Starmer as leader because the party is behind in the polls.

"Leaders have good weeks and bad weeks but what's the most important thing that Keir Starmer has said since he became leader is that, after this crisis is over, there can be no return to business as usual,” Miliband said.

He added: "That means we have got to create a fairer, more just and more equal country."

Recent polls put the Tories three points ahead of Labour, while one survey found that just 16 per cent of people thought Starmer would have done a better job in handling the pandemic.

Watch: Could the Oxford Vaccine Change the Course of the Pandemic?