Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey is under fire for seemingly dismissing calls for the sacking of a Tory election candidate, who cruelly and callously wrote on social media that people on Benefit’s Street should be ‘put down’.
The South Wales Gower Tory candidate Francesca O’Brien wrote on her Facebook page in 2004 that people in the reality TV show Benefits street needed “putting down”.
The post has since been deleted and Francesca O’Brien has apologised for her comments, but there is mounting pressure on the Tory Party to remove her as a 2019 General Election candidate.
Speaking on the Today programme this morning, DWP Secretary Thérèse Coffey said the decision should be left to voters.
BBC Today presenter Justin Webb asked: “When you say you’re being positive, can I put to you a comment from one of your candidates, your candidate for Gower, Francesca O’Brien.
“This is your area, benefits. She wrote on her Facebook page in 2014 that people in the reality TV show Benefits street needed ‘putting down’. Should she be a candidate for the party or not?”
Coffey responded: “Well hearing that, what she said is clearly wrong, clearly wrong. I’m led to believe it was early in 2014, I don’t know Francesca at all, she has apologised I’ve been told.
“That is important, and I recognise that these comments are not ones with which I would associate myself in any way.”
Coffey was then pressed for an answer on whether Francesca O’Brien should be allowed to stand.
“But I think that will be a decision for the people of Gower to make on who they want to be their next Member of Parliament”, Coffey replied.
She added: “I think it’s a matter for the people of Gower whether they want her to be their next MP and she will have that choice next month.”
Responding to Thérèse Coffey’s comments, Ian Lavery MP, Labour Party Chair, said: “Removing a candidate who used such vile language about people on benefits should be a no brainer.
“The cuts to benefits and Universal Credit programme that Thérèse 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.”