Philip Hammond has provoked a backlash after telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr that “there are no unemployed people” in the UK.
The Chancellor made the gaffe while asserting the country was on the up following a long economic downturn.
“Where are all these unemployed people? There are no unemployed people,” he said, prompting a flurry of incredulous responses on Twitter.
This is Norman Lamont singing in the bath levels of political cloth-earedness. Prepare to see this quote as a meme about 10 million times. https://t.co/8txGGPzrQv— Jo Green (@jg_ccpress) November 19, 2017
Did Philip Hammond just say: "No unemployed people"? ...and he failed to mention zero hrs, low paid & workers also going to foodbanks! #Marr— Vivid Ricky (@VividRicky) November 19, 2017
Philip Hammond- "There are no unemployed people"— Kerry O'Hare (@kerry_ohare) November 19, 2017
What planet does he live on?#Marr
Did Philip Hammond seriously just say on #Marr "There are no unemployed people"??? Four days before the budget? Bodes well....— Chris Bryden (@BrydenLaw) November 19, 2017
Pressed on his claim by Marr - who pointed out there are in fact 1.4 million people out of work in Britain - Hammond said he had been referring to the fact unemployment is at a record low.
He accused the last Labour government of “abandoning” the unemployed and said Theresa May’s government was “helping people get back into work”.
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said Hammond was “living on another planet”.
He added: “If the person in charge of the country’s finances doesn’t know, or chooses to ignore, the fact that nearly 1.5 million people are unemployed, and almost a million people are on zero-hours contracts, then he is clearly losing a grip on reality.
“The Tories have become even more out of touch and are now so inwards looking that they have no clue of the experiences of ordinary people suffering from seven years of Tory austerity.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who also appeared on the programme, said many people were still “living in a real recession”.
“We have had people whose wages have been cut by 10% - nurses for example,” he added.
“There is gross inequality in our society. For the first time we have people of all generations saying for the next generation, things will be worse off for them. Young people these days can’t expect even the same living standards their parents had.”