Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg praised food banks as ‘uplifting’ today – saying they showed the generosity of the British public.
The MP, who has become a cult figure for his old-fashioned style and traditional views, also accused the previous Labour government of trying to hide their existence.
The comments – which came as the Old Etonian answered questions during a radio phone-in – were attacked as ‘heartless’.
Shadow education secretary Angela jibed that the poor would rather be able to ‘feed themselves’ than rely on charity.
Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg praised food banks as ‘uplifting’ during an appearance on LBC radio today
Mr Rees-Mogg also railed at the UK’s ‘tokenistic’ foreign aid budget, saying the spending target merely meant money was ‘thrown out of the door’ at the end of the year
In the LBC appearance, Mr Rees-Mogg railed at the UK’s ‘tokenistic’ foreign aid budget, saying it merely meant money was ‘thrown out of the door’ at the end of the year to hit the ‘arbitrary’ 0.7 per cent target.
He also dismissed speculation about his potential to be Tory leader and insisted ‘no one serious’ believed he would be a candidate.
How he sparked uproar by saying abortion was wrong
Just last week Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked controversy for saying that he did not support abortion under any circumstances.
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said that, because of his Catholic faith, he was ‘completely opposed’ to terminations – even in cases of rape or incest – and called them ‘morally indefensible’.
The MP – a father of six – said: ‘Life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception and I think [abortion] is wrong.’
Mr Rees-Mogg was widely criticised, with The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides abortions, calling his views ‘extreme’ and ‘wildly at odds’ with public opinion. And his Conservative colleague Margot James called his views ‘utterly abhorrent’.
But former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who is also a Catholic, said: ‘I agree with Jacob – a child is a child. Those are his views and if he’s asked about them he must answer honestly.’
Following the reaction to his comments, Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to express an opinion. Why should I get flustered? Rape is a great evil and a terrible crime, but that’s not made better by then aborting the unborn child. To take a life after a rape is not the answer.’
Challenged over the growth in food banks under Tories, Mr Rees-Mogg said this had happened because of a change in rules allowing JobCentre staff to inform clients of their availability.
‘To have charitable support given by people voluntarily to support their fellow-citizens I think is rather uplifting and shows what a good, compassionate country we are,’ he said.
‘Inevitably, the state can’t do everything, so I think that there is good within food banks.
‘The real reason for the rise in numbers is that people know that they are there and Labour deliberately didn’t tell them.’
But Ms Rayner shot back on Twitter: ‘My constituents would prefer to feed themselves instead of being “uplifted” after visiting a food bank.’
It is the latest controversy to embroil Mr Rees-Mogg, who has become an unlikely contender to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader.
He was widely criticised for stating that, as a Catholic, he did not support abortion under any circumstances – even when a woman has been raped.
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he fully supports Theresa May, saying there needed to be a period of consistent leadership as the country leaves the European Union.
The North East Somerset MP admitted so-called Moggmentum was ‘great fun while it lasts’ but he had no wish to become leader.
He said: ‘I have no wish to become leader of the Conservative Party. I’m fully supporting Mrs May.
‘I think it’s extremely important that we have the same leadership for this period in our country’s history, to make sure we get through Brexit properly and then go beyond that so that we can get the benefits of Brexit, which will be freer trade, lower prices in the shops, control of our own borders and of our own regulations, and we need stability to get that.
‘I am completely backing Mrs May and no one serious thinks that I am a credible candidate.’
Asked what Cabinet job he would most like, Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘That’s not going to happen.’
Challenged over the growth in food banks under Tories, Mr Rees-Mogg said this had happened because of a change in rules allowing JobCentre staff to inform clients of their availability. Pictured is a food bank in Wandsworth
Mr Rees-Mogg’s radio appearance was attacked by a series of users on Twitter
Mrs May was asked in a radio interview whether she might promote him to the Cabinet, and ‘she laughed for the longest amount of time she has laughed since the general election’, Mr Rees-Mogg told LBC.
‘I was delighted to bring some happiness and joy to our distinguished Prime Minister, but that’s how seriously she takes it,’ he said.
Mr Rees-Mogg was scornful of the attacks on Mrs May by former chancellor George Osborne, who has used his editorship of the Evening Standard to unleash a series of barbs at the Prime Minister and was reported to have told colleagues he wanted her ‘chopped up in bags in my freezer’.
‘The sadness of George Osborne is that he is a formidably able man, he served with distinction as chancellor of the exchequer, and has decided since leaving Parliament to emulate a rather less successful Edward Heath,’ said the North East Somerset MP.
‘I think this kind of bitterness and bile ends up making the person who has that bitterness and bile feel resentful and sad and has no effect on broader politics.
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he fully supports Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street yesterday)
‘His firepower diminishes with every bitter outburst and for so able a man that is something we should be sad about rather than particularly condemning.’
Mr Rees-Mogg also took aim at European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, saying his proposals for further EU integration were in ‘in cloud cuckoo land’.
He said Britain would not have to pay Brussels ‘a brass farthing’ if it leaves the bloc without a trade deal.
He also suggested the government should simply leave its border with Ireland open and dare the EU to impose checks from the other side.
On recent controversies he said it was ‘a choice for parents’ if they sent their son to school in a dress, described easier access to the morning-after pill as ‘a great sadness, because life begins at the point of conception’ and said he would be happy to eat chlorine-washed chicken from the US.