POLITICS

Tory MP Mark Garnier Caught Urging George Osborne To Ignore 'Dog-End' Voters

02/12/2014 14:58 GMT | Updated 02/12/2014 17:59 GMT
Wiktor Dabkowski/DPA
British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at the start of a European finance ministers meeting at EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on 07.11.2014 by Wiktor Dabkowski

A senior Tory backbencher has been forced to apologise after being caught suggesting that George Osborne should help businesspeople by ignoring "dog-end" voters who live in "outlying regions."

Mark Garnier, a member of the influential Commons Treasury Committee, made the call to help "wealth creators" at a meeting held by the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank.

Garnier told attendees: "We need to be giving a much clearer message to them that they don't have to worry about politicians mucking around with tax rates in order to try and attract a few dog-end voters in the outlying regions of the country."

Garnier swiftly tried to correct himself, stressing that he had not meant to say those voters were "not important", adding: "But what is important is that businesses can feel surety in what is happening within tax rates."

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Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier

The backbencher is just the latest Tory to face accusations of snobbery, after Osborne's father in law Lord Howell called for fracking to take place in the "unloved" North West and "desolate" North East.

Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell last month lost a libel case as a judge concluded that he "on the balance of probabiliites" called a policeman a "f***ing pleb", while former cabinet minister David Mellor was caught on tape calling a taxi driver a "sweaty little s**t".

Meanwhile Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigned as shadow attorney general after a "snobby" tweet about a house in the Rochester and Strood constituency draped in England flags with a white van parked outside.

The emergence of Garnier's comments will be awkwardly timed politically as the Chancellor is preparing for his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, where he is likely to seek to show his plans are helping "hard-working" Britons.

Approached by The Sun, which first reported his comments - with a recording, Garnier said: "If I used slack language in order to make a point, I am sorry if I caused any offence to anybody.

"Certainly no offence is intended. I believe every voter is important everywhere."

But Labour seized on Garnier's slip-up, with shadow cabinet office minister Jon Ashworth branding it a "a shocking insult to hardworking people by an influential Tory."

Writing on PoliticsHome, which featured a fuller recording of Garnier's remarks, Ashworth wrote: "Across our towns and cities people are working hard to make ends meet and pay the bills. Yet wages are down an average £1,600 a year since 2010 and households will be £974 a year worse off by next year's general election under the tax and benefit changes since 2010.

"I hope Mr Garnier can now explain to thousands upon thousands of our hardworking constituents why he considers them ‘dog-end voters’?"

"When George Osborne stands up tomorrow we know that he will seek to mask a record of economic failure that is now all too apparent for everyone to see. But what he will not be able to escape is that the mask is slipping on a Tory Party who stands up for a privileged few because they simply don’t understand hardworking Britain. "

Garnier has previously made more compassionate remarks, expressing fears that a rise in interest rates could be a "social catastrophe" for families.

"There are individuals and families in my constituency who have to rely on everything being pretty safe for them otherwise their lives will go into crisis," he told the Huffington Post UK.

"The thing that keeps me awake at night is what about those households and how are we going to help them? The one thing I have got to worry about is when the tide comes in, whose boats are below the water line?"

See also:

George Osborne's Big £7bn Tax Cuts Will Actually Help The Rich Most

George Osborne Mulls 'Super-Tax' For British Money In Swiss Bank Accounts

Autumn Statement 2014: How George Osborne Prepares His Mini-Budget