Labour minister Kate Green has admitted it was “hurtful and offensive” to exploit the coronavirus pandemic for her party’s own end.
Ms Green, shadow education, urged activists “not to let a good crisis go to waste”.
She “really regretted” making the comment during a virtual speech at the Labour Party conference.
Labour has already distanced itself from the newly appointed Ms Green.
She admitted she had been “really clumsy”.
Ms Green added:
“It was absolutely the wrong thing to say – hurtful and offensive to people who have suffered in this pandemic and I shouldn’t have said it.
“What I would say, and I think I all know this, is the crisis has really exposed the strain, the pressures in our public services, the dependence we all have on some of the lowest paid workers in health, in care, in transport, in food and logistics.
“It’s really shown, I think, our schools, our care system is under huge pressure.
“And when something like a pandemic hits – we hope it won’t again – but when we have this kind of crisis we realise that under-investment in our economy and in our public services has been a really false economy.
She continued: “It was a really clumsy and awful way to say that what we need to do is learn from a crisis – learn what we weren’t prepared for, what we could have been prepared for and hadn’t.”
Conservative chair Amanda Milling, said last week:
“Labour shouldn’t be playing politics with people’s lives, they should be acting in the national interest.”
And Boris Johnson used the comment to attack Labour at Prime Minister’s Questions, saying:
“The reality of the opposition position has been exposed – the cat is out of the bag…
“That is the real approach of the Labour Party – seeking to create political opportunity out of a crisis, out of the difficulties and dangers this country is going through, while we are taking the tough decisions to get the virus down, to keep our education system going and to keep our economy moving.”