Question Time: Jacob Rees-Mogg accused of justifying concentration camps during the Boer War

Question Time: Jacob Rees-Mogg accused of justifying concentration camps during the Boer War

Tory MP and ardent Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been accused of justifying concentration camps during an appearance on BBC Question Time.

In a discussion on the legacy of Winston Churchill, following on from the comments of Labour's John McDonnell, Rees-Mogg attempted to differentiate the reasons why the former PM shouldn't be labelled a 'villain' in the same way that Adolf Hitler is.

According to the 49-year-old MP for North East Somerset, the death rate in concentration camps used by the British army in South Africa during the second Boer War between 1899 and 1902 was the same as the death rate in Glasgow at the time.

South African concentration camps had exactly the same mortality rate as existed in Glasgow did at the time. They're not a good thing but where else were people going to live?

Rees-Mogg's point was immediately cut off by Grace Blakley, a research fellow for the Institute for Public Policy Research, who accused him of justifying the use of concentration camps.

He responded by saying:

No, I wasn't. We're talking about the Boer War had people but in camps for their protection.

I'm afraid you are confusing concentration camps with Hitler's extermination camps.

Blakley came back:

I'm not saying they are the same thing. I'm saying any concentration is defacto an awful, awful thing.

Rees-Mogg then attempted to again justify his comments.

These people were interned for their safety. Now that is not a good thing. The death rate was exactly the same as Glasgow. Death rates 100 years ago were considerably higher than they are now for all sorts of reasons.

It was not systematic murder. That is simply wrong. I'm not advocating people being taken off their farms and put into camps but there was a war going on and people were being taken there to be fed because the farmers were away fighting the Boer War.

This is one of the things where you've got to understand the history of what was going on, not just look at it from the comfort of 2019 and say that this is the same as what was going on with Hitler.  It is completely and utterly different.

The Boer War concentration camps are now considered to be one of the greatest atrocities that the British Empire ever committed, with more than 27,000 of the 107,000 people interned dying while in the camps. A sixth of the Boer population were detained, most of them being women and children.

Rees-Mogg's comments have seen the MP face a backlash for his revisionist take on the war and those who died.

Indy100 has contacted Rees-Mogg for comment.


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