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Labour chairman Ian Lavery has defended describing the coronavirus outbreak as a “great opportunity” for the party to show how it can bring people together. 

The Guido Fawkes website posted audio of Mr Lavery making the remarks in a Zoom conference call with party activists on Friday.

In the recording, Mr Lavery said: “By the way, when something like this happens, we’re going to see lots of our own dying as a consequence.

“But, you know apart from that, it’s going to give the fantastic battalion of Labour Party members, community champions out there, a great opportunity of showing how Labour, and why Labour, is best when it gets on the front foot and best when it brings people together.

“We need to make sure that we do that and community organising – what a great opportunity it’s going to give us.

“Every one of us, every one of our families… relations, friends, organising the communities, because there is going to be lots of people out there that really need our help.”

After the recording was posted, Mr Lavery tweeted a response, saying he was “extremely proud” to rally party members to help those in need. 

He wrote:  “Intentionally misleading reporting is really disappointing at a time like this.

“I’ve spoken about the opportunity for people to get out there and help their local communities and those in need.

“Nonsense to suggest otherwise.

“We all need to do our bit to get through this crisis.”

He continued: “Despite what completely misleading articles say, I was extremely proud to rally over 2,000 Labour Party members to go out and help those most in need across all communities. 

“We have a battalion of over 580,000 members and we need them to help in this crisis.”