Labour MP Emma Dent Coad has defended herself over a joke she made about the Royal Family, saying she is "ashamed" of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's status as the most unequal in Britain.
The Kensington MP, who counts Prince Harry and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as her constituents, made the controversial remarks at a "Reigning In The Monarchy" fringe event at Labour's annual party conference on Monday.
According to The Sun, Dent Coad said: "Harry can't actually fly a helicopter. He tried to pass the helicopter exam about four times and he couldn't get through it at all so he always goes for the co-pilot. So he just sits there going 'vroom vroom'."
Dent Coad, who was elected earlier this year, was heavily criticised for her comments including by fellow Labour MP John Woodcock and Tory defence minister Tobias Ellwood.
On Wednesday she released a lengthy statement saying her joke had been "taken the wrong way", but asked: "Can we look at the real issues facing us now?"
Dent Coad, whose constituency is home to Grenfell Tower, criticised the amount of money spent on Buckingham Palace refurbishments while survivors of the fire are still living in poverty.
"It is lived in by just three members of the Royal family. In addition, the government finds £.3bn a year in total to support the Royal family, including millions to refurbish apartments for their use in Kensington Palace.
"Meanwhile, a short walk away, survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been abandoned in pokey hotel rooms for 15 weeks because there are no homes available for them."
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Dent Coat said this would be her "final comment on this ridiculous overblown issue", and that she was "drawing a line under it because we need to talk about more important things", adding that the press had focussed more on her comments than any of the issues she had raised about survivors of Grenfell Tower.
Read Emma Dent Coad's statement in full:
As MP for Kensington, where I was born and bred, I am ashamed of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s status as the most unequal borough in Britain.
We have billionaire tax cheats – and four Food Banks where supplies have to be rationed.
The government has recently found £.3bn to restore Buckingham Palace, a palace with 52 Royal and guest bedrooms and over 188 staff bedrooms. It is lived in by just three members of the Royal family. In addition, the government finds £.3bn a year in total to support the Royal family, including millions to refurbish apartments for their use in Kensington Palace.
Meanwhile, a short walk away, survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been abandoned in pokey hotel rooms for 15 weeks because there are no homes available for them. One woman is heavily pregnant and heading for a caesarean any day now. She has nowhere to go after birth to recover apart from back to her room which is so small there is no room for a cot and baby clothes – which have been begged from Mothercare by a volunteer.
Another survivor, who is disabled, has been moved six times, and was forgotten by her carers, so she spent a day lying in bed in her own excrement.
Many are refugees, and some are former soldiers. I have total respect for them and the sacrifices they have made for their home countries and for ours. Army veterans are treated very poorly by the government; a close associate served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned suffering from shock and PTSD. It took years to get a diagnosis, the system is punitive and he suffered unimaginably.
On Monday night I made a joke. It has been taken the wrong way. Can we look at the real issues facing us now?
We heard last night at the Council meeting about some survivors who have given up hope and are contemplating suicide. And just yesterday, a baby was hospitalised after being given expired milk by the Council.
Where is the £20m raised from donations, and where is the help people so desperately need?
Will we have to face a round of deaths and suicides before the government wakes up to this second tragedy caused by the Council, takes command, and pledges fully funded support via appointed commissioners for survivors of this avoidable atrocity?
People are angry. I’m angry too. And I will highlight these issues loud, clear and often until they are addressed.
Hannah Al-Othman is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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