Hugo Swire, the current MP for Devon East and a junior Foreign Office minister, has shown contempt for those on benefits who are struggling to make ends meet. Exposed by the Channel Four Dispatches programme in a sting, temporary auctioneer Swire, seeking to raise funds for the Conservatives at a black tie dinner for his party in Mayfair in February, managed to insult those on benefits in the UK and those who are suffering hardship in Greece. Seeking a higher bid, he said “£60,000 …Ian..persuade him…he’s not on benefits is he? Well, if he is, then he can afford it..£55,000.”
At the same function last month, which raised some £2 million for his party from some of the wealthiest people in the country, the minister was trying to auction a holiday in Greece. He commented that, for another £1,000, he “would throw in a case of wine and for an extra £5,000 we’ll throw in Greece as well”. Tables at the event could be booked for up to £15,000 each.
This event was staged just the evening before Hugo Swire voted for a cut of 13.4 per cent in the grant for Devon which will cause new hardship in the county as more services are cut. Already, libraries, hospitals, bus routes and many services for children and elderly people have been reduced or eliminated. The latest reduction prompted the Deputy Leader of Devon County Council, a Conservative, to observe “Cameron, like Pickles, is out of touch”.
Mr Swire, through the “buddy” system, is linked to five very large companies but according to Claire Wright, his main challenger in the Devon East constituency, he lacks any understanding of the problems that ordinary people have.
“What is funny about people who face a daily battle trying to survive on benefits? It is not funny for those who struggle to scrape together the funds in an attempt to make ends meet. It is not funny for the many thousands who have to use food banks. Mr Swire obviously lacks understanding and empathy with ordinary people. It shows him in a poor and callous light. This insensitive and tasteless comment comes from a minister in a government that has assured us that ‘we are all in it together’ and they probably still don’t understand why millions of us think that is a bad joke.
“His comments reflect a worrying lack of compassion that characterises this government. Mr Swire should apologise for his crass remarks.” END 24.3.15