Tory candidate in foulmouthed outburst at jobless parents | Conservatives

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A Conservative byelection candidate has defended sharing a Facebook post telling jobless parents who cannot feed their children to “fuck off” if they still pay a £30 phone bill.

Andrew Cooper is seeking to replace the former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher as MP for Tamworth in one of two byelections on Thursday.

He shared a photo of a flowchart on social media that indicated that people should only seek help if they are employed and give up their TV and mobile phone contracts, the Mirror reported.

The post, shared in 2020, asked the question: “Can you feed your kids?” The diagram suggests those who are out of work, pay for “TV Sky/BT/ETC” or “have a phone contract + £30” should “fuck off” rather than seek help.

A screenshot of the post was later shared on the local Facebook page Spotted Tamworth alongside an anonymous message reading: “Lovely potential MP!! Wants to starve the children!! He won’t get my vote! Absolute cretin!”

In a statement, Cooper told the Mirror: “I think most people in Tamworth would agree that benefits are not there to pay for luxuries. There are too many people on out-of-work benefits and there needs to be improved incentives to get people into work.

“Both the prime minister and chancellor have spoken about the need to get people off welfare and into jobs. That’s why I want to be the local MP in Tamworth – so I can support local families and help get more people into work.”

In Tamworth, 19.5% of children lived in relative poverty as of 2021-22, according to the latest constituency data.

The Conservative minister Andrew Griffith praised Cooper as a “fantastic” candidate on Wednesday morning but said MP hopefuls should be “absolutely empathetic”.

The economic secretary to the Treasury told Times Radio: “Everyone should choose their language wisely, not least of which on social media. But what you look for in a candidate is someone who is local, someone who is going to work hard and somebody who is absolutely empathetic and represents their local constituents to the best.”

The Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, who is leading the party’s byelection campaign in Tamworth, said: “The Tories have overseen 13 years of next to no growth, before crashing the economy. The result is a third of children in Tamworth are growing up in poverty and two-thirds of them are in working families.

“It shows a complete lack of understanding of the challenges facing families in Tamworth that the Conservative candidate is telling parents who are struggling to make ends meet to ‘fuck off’.”

Tamworth was held by Labour after a huge byelection victory for the party in 1996, but Chris Pincher won the seat for the Conservatives in 2010 and almost doubled his majority to nearly 20,000 at the 2019 general election.

On the same day, the parties also face a three-way fight – with the Liberal Democrats – for Nadine Dorries’s seat in Mid Bedfordshire. Labour is hoping to flip both Tory majorities.

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