Spat breaks out over Labour rural claims

A Twitter spat has broken out between the Conservative DEFRA team and shadow DEFRA minister Mary Creagh over her claims Labour is the party of the countryside.

Mrs Creagh made the statement after criticising the Tory party’s handling of rural issues.

Speaking at the Labour party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday (27 September), she said Labour had shown it was fighting back in rural areas.

“Labour is the party of the countryside,” she told conference delegates.

But DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman claimed Mrs Creagh’s comments were cynical, claiming they ignored Labour’s record in government.

“Labour neglected the countryside,” she said in a statement. “Who can forget the five rural post offices that closed every week under Labour, or the endless fuel duty rises which hit people in the countryside so much harder?

“Rural communities won’t be fooled by Labour’s re-writing of history.”

An account called @toryenvironment on micro-blogging site Twitter, which claims to be run by Tory DEFRA and DECC press officers, added: “So how can @marycreagh_mp claim that ‘Labour is the party of the countryside’?! What total rubbish!”

Mrs Creagh replied on her own Twitter account and said Mrs Spelman’s reaction showed she was ‘frit’ – Midlands’ slang for ‘frightened’.

A DEFRA spokeswoman said the @toryenvironment Twitter account was run by DEFRA press officers at the Conservative party’s headquarters.

Those press officers were entitled to express political opinions, unlike DEFRA press officers who are civil servants and must remain impartial, she said.