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THE Conservatives faced mounting pressure to remove Tory general election candidate Francesca O’Brien today for her remark that people on reality TV show Benefits Street need “putting down.”
And disability rights group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) warned voters ahead of the December 12 election that her anti-welfare rhetoric is reflective of wider Conservative attitudes.
The Conservatives have so far ignored calls for Ms O’Brien to be removed as a candidate for the south Wales constituency of Gower for the comments she made on Facebook in 2014.
Ms O’Brien wrote “wow, these people are unreal” and replied to a comment by writing: “My blood is boiling, these people need putting down.”
She has apologised for the language she used and claimed the comments were made “off the cuff, a number of years ago.”
Disabled People Against Cuts’ (DPAC) Linda Burnip told the Star that the comment “simply reflects the attitudes of the Tories towards the welfare state.”
She said: “They really don’t care about working-class people, especially those who have lost their jobs or are disabled.
“It’s obvious that anyone with that attitude is unsuitable to be an MP and she should be removed immediately.”
Ms Burnip also called on Twitter users to condemn Ms O’Brien’s views in an appropriate manner.
The Tories lost the Gower seat in 2017 with a margin of 3,269 to Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi and Ms O’Brien was selected last month to run in the December 12 general election.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called the comment “absolutely disgusting” and agreed with Ms Burnip that it “reveals the cruelty at the heart of the Tories’ benefits cuts.”
Ms Rayner said: “Universal credit (UC) was deliberately designed to punish people who are out of work.
“Many of us have relied on social security support at some point in our lives and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
“This person is not fit to be an MP and [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson should remove her as a candidate.”
Speaking on the Today programme and LBC today, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey effectively said that the Conservatives would ignore calls for Ms O’Brien to be removed as a parliamentary candidate.
She told the Today programme: “I think it’s a matter for the people of Gower whether they want her to be their next MP and they will have that choice next month.”
And when Ms Coffey was asked on LBC whether she would vote for Ms O’Brien, she said: “Yes, I absolutely would.”
Shadow secretary of state for employment rights Laura Pidcock responded: “Therese Coffey is not fit to be DWP secretary and the Conservative candidate for Gower is not fit to be an MP.
“It is shocking that the Conservatives’ benefits chief has endorsed someone who would talk about people on social security in such a disgusting way.
“This is the person in charge of the roll-out of universal credit.
“The Tories’ cruel benefits regime has pushed families and children into poverty. And it is no wonder, when Boris Johnson’s party has such contempt for the less well off.”
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said that removing a candidate who used “such vile language” about people on benefits “should be a no-brainer.”
He said: “The cuts to benefits and UC programme that Therese Coffey and her party are responsible for have forced people into poverty.
“It is shameful that Boris Johnson is allowing Francesca O’Brien to stand for his party in Gower. This reveals the Conservatives’ contempt for the less well off.”
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