Jared Harris is 'no public health expert' say MPs after he compares Covid-19 crisis to Chernobyl

·2-min read
Jared Harris receiving his Bafta for Leading Actor  - BAFTA/PA
Jared Harris receiving his Bafta for Leading Actor - BAFTA/PA

Jared Harris, the Bafta-winning actor, is “no public health expert”, MPs say after he compared the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis to Chernobyl.

The 58-year-old won the Leading Actor award at Saturday night's virtual ceremony for his performance as Valery Legasov in the drama about the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Soviet Union.

However, Harris has now been criticised for airing his views on the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming that the production connects with audiences because it illustrates how people in positions of power seek to preserve their own status rather than tackle the problem.

Chernobyl, a five-part drama broadcast on Sky, explores the craven response of the government committee charged with doing something about one of history's worst man-made disasters.

Harris plays an atomic scientist - the only man prepared to confront the truth.

Asked why the drama resonated with viewers, he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on Saturday (Aug 1): "It's power protecting itself rather than trying to fix the problem.

"Their first instinct is to try to mitigate the damage that they think is going to happen to themselves... then they lie about it. They lie about the scale of the problem or how to fix it."

His comments have prompted a backlash from MPs, who have accused him of "abusing his platform" by straying into science and politics.

Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, told The Sunday Telegraph: "I am sure Jared Harris is a fine actor, but winning an award for Chernobyl doesn't qualify him as an epidemiologist and public health expert.

"Almost 14 million people elected this Government in December to take tough decisions and none has been tougher than dealing with the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus.

"Not a single member of the public voted for Jared Harris to abuse the temporary platform he has been given to lecture the people of this country on how they are governed.

"I am sure there will be much clinking of champagne glasses from the exclusive luvviedom bubble who did vote for him, but frankly the rest of us aren't bothered.

"There is always something deliciously ironic about luvvies who inherit their fame from acting dynasties trying to lecture democratically accountable governments on how they are doing from off the stage."

Marcus Fysh, Conservative MP for Yeovil, added: "It's utterly ludicrous and offensive to say such a thing when so many are working their hearts out and have been for months to protect and help the people of this country through this awful pandemic. Enough of actors pontificating in a malevolent fashion, thank you very much."

The Telegraph contacted a representative for Harris for comment.

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