Andrea Leadsom told MPs Jane Austen is “one of our greatest living authors”, triggering a round of laughter in parliament.
The leader of the House of Commons, who nearly became prime minister a year ago, was speaking after her Labour shadow Valerie Vaz paid tribute to the achievements of women, including French abortion rights campaigner Simone Veil and the late trade unionist Mary Turner.
Speaking just after the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, Leadsom said: “I would just add one other great lady to that lovely list, who I am delighted to join in celebrating, and that’s that of Jane Austen, who will feature on the new £10 note, which I think is one of our greatest living authors”.
MPs howled with laughter as Leadsom tried to correct herself, saying: “Greatest ever authors, greatest ever authors. Many of wish she were still living.”
But the damage was done and Twitter wondered who Leadsom’s other favourite living authors were.
Using the hashtag #LeadsomThoughts, people wondered who else’s death she may not have noticed.
While others thought she had confused Austen with the wrestler Steve Austin or the fictional Colonel Steve Austin.
Jane Austen died in 1817 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
The author is to be immortalised on the new £10 note.
It will be the first note to carry the picture of a woman, other than the Queen, since the £5 note featuring prison reformer Elizabeth Fry was withdrawn in 2013.