A pro-Brexit Tory MP has come under fire after telling jobless Britons to find work on farms so they can meet “loads of gorgeous EU women”.
Speaking to a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Craig Mackinlay said the unemployed in big cities should “get on your bike and find a job” in rural areas.
“I was struggling to think why wouldn’t a youngster from Glasgow without a job come down to the south to work for a farm for the summer with loads of gorgeous EU women working there?” Mackinlay said.
“What’s not to like? Get on your bike and find a job,” Business Insider reported.
“We need to mobilise our core of unemployed to say ‘there is a job there for me, let’s go and get it’, just as the very well-motivated Bucharest youngster gets a coach across Europe to find a job.”
Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Dawn Butler told HuffPost UK his remarks were “despicable” and managed to be offensive to both the unemployed and to women.
“This is a despicable attitude using and objectifying EU women as a bargaining chip. This comment manages to be offensive to both unemployed people and all women at the same time,” she said.
“This kind of cheap and degrading insult is further proof that the Tories have no answers to the failings in our economy caused by seven years of austerity. The next Labour government won’t stereotype, dehumanise or degrade people, we will build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”
Former UKIP member Mackinlay defeated Nigel Farage to win his Kent seat in the 2015 general election.
The MP, who is married to a Hungarian woman, faces trial next May relating to his expenses for that election.
Farmers fear huge labour shortages once the UK quits the EU, although the Government’s Brexit department is keen to maintain schemes that allow registered workers to continue to staff the agriculture and horticulture industry.
Ardent remain campaigner and backbencher Anna Soubry told a separate fringe event it was “a myth” to suggest there were “legions of jobless people” willing to plug a potential workforce gap after March 2019.
“It is simply untrue to say migrants are taking British people’s jobs,” she added.
Mackinlay’s “on your bike” remarks were a deliberate echo of Norman Tebbit’s remarks after the Brixton riots, when he pointed out that in the depressed 1930s his unemployed father “got on his bike bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it”.
Richard Leonard MSP, seen as the favourite to win the Scottish Labour leadership race, said the remarks proved the Tories “offer Scotland only misery”.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “These remarks are as misogynistic as they are ignorant. It seems the spirit of Norman Tebbit is still running the Conservative Party.
“Maybe Mr Mackinlay should follow his own advice and start picking fruit rather than picking fights.”