Cllr David Shakespeare, the Conservative leader of Buckingham County Council, is in trouble after suggesting that the unemployed should look for work picking fruit. The problem seems to be that he was making the proposal in the context of a discussion about regional unemployment in the north of England. He said that perhaps they should "replace the Romanians in the cherry orchards." So the implication was taken to be that unemployed southerners were too grand to pick fruit but the work was good enough for unemployed northerners.
Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said:
“To see northerners in this second class, undermining and disrespectful way is typical for a very southern orientated political party like the Conservatives."
But I would be surprised if Cllr Shakespeare would not also commend fruit pickers to young southerners languishing on benefits. With that caveat the row seems rather artificial. Does Blenkinsop feel that sitting at home on benefits is better than taking a job picking fruit? Does he think picking fruit is an activity to be despised? Or does he think it is good enough for the Romanians but not for his constituents?