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Conservative candidate urged to step down after saying Benefits Street cast need ‘putting down’

The Independent logo The Independent 04/11/2019 Vincent Wood
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A Conservative general election candidate who said that said people on the Benefits Street reality TV show needed “putting down”, should be removed by Boris Johnson, the Labour Party has said.

The Channel 4 show, which aired in 2014, depicted the close knit community of Turner Street in Birmingham where many made use of the welfare state.

It has now emerged that Francesca O'Brien, who is standing for the Conservatives in the key marginal seat of Gower in south Wales, wrote a series of comments critical of the people featured on the show, on her personal Facebook account.

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"My blood is boiling, these people need putting down,” she wrote in the now deleted comment first reported by The Guardian.

A friend responded that they were “the man for the job“,

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“Tomorrow is t*** a tramp Tuesday take your batts (sic) to the streets,” they wrote, adding that they had “just swam 1000m and I can’t move so I might have to just shout abuse.”

Ms O’Brien, who was in her late 20s at the time, responded “I’m liking that idea… haha, made me laugh”.

Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who has previously discussed growing up on a council estate with parents who were on benefits, said the comments were “absolutely disgusting”.

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She added: "Many of us have relied on social security support at some point in our lives and it is nothing to be ashamed of. This person is not fit to be an MP and Boris Johnson should remove her as a candidate."

The Conservative party has so far not taken any steps to remove Ms O’Brien as a candidate following the revelation.

In a statement, she said: "These comments were made off the cuff, a number of years ago. However, I accept that my use of language was unacceptable and I would like to apologise for any upset I have caused."

She is fighting for the seat currently held by Labour's Tonia Antoniazzi, who won in 2017 with 22,727 votes, 3,269 ahead of the Conservative candidate.

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