Labour shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis has landed in hot water after being filmed pretending to shoot himself, imitating the shape of a gun with his fingers and placing them in his mouth, and then laughing at his own joke.
The gesture was made after a Tory MP interrupted Lewis’s colleague, Annelise Dodds, as she delivered a speech during a House of Commons debate on the Finance Bill.
After the footage was unearthed online, Lewis became the subject of significant criticism, with many social media users pointing to the suicide statistics in the UK:
6,213 people died of suicide in the UK last year. It’s no laughing matter & this behaviour is ill-befitting of any MP, never mind a frontbencher. Clive Lewis should be ashamed of himself. https://t.co/AFX1GQ4vkH— Paul Church (@pauljchurch) 20 November 2018
Labour MP Clive “on your knees, bitches” joking about suicide.— Gareth Baines (@DrGABaines) 20 November 2018
12 young men take their own life *every week* in the UK — the single biggest killer of men under 50. Disgusting @labourlewis pic.twitter.com/y0tWVF49qP
The majority of netizens dismissed his antics as ‘beyond sickening’ and suggested that he should resign for poking fun at suicide:
Childish. To mock suicide is not childish. It is a thoughtless, small minded, unsympathetic act. One of the biggest killers in men in the UK is suicide. He should be fired and apologise for this DISGUSTING ABHORRENT act. 😡🤬— L (@LW31399) 20 November 2018
@LabourUK Openly mocking people who commit suicide. Disgraceful.— Cancer Research Groyper (@CR_Kekistan) 20 November 2018
Nonetheless, some people said that Lewis was not mocking suicide, but was rather making a figurative joke:
Right, Clive Lewis is NOT “mocking suicide”, he is making a figurative joke about wanting to kill himself rather than listen to any more nonsense. This is not mocking anyone, it’s a joke. Everyone, calm down. Can we please stop pretending to be offended by *everything*? https://t.co/geP5gWO2OU— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) 20 November 2018
Guess you've never heard of humour. So so sad— Danny Bell (@dingbell1999) 20 November 2018
Not the best place to make that joke. But it is a joke and we should stop trying to hang everyone out to dry for every foot they put wrong. Tell me honestly you've never made that joke verbally or with your hands??? When you did, were you mocking suicide? No, you weren't.— Justin Philpott (@jedphilpott) 21 November 2018
Lewis is no stranger to controversy: during a 2017 event, organised by Labour- and Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, he was filmed telling actor Sam Swann ‘Get on your knees, b**ch’. He apologised for the language he used, saying it was ‘offensive’ and ‘unacceptable’.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 5,821 cases of suicide were recorder in Great Britain last year, with 75 percent of these being men.