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Government minister Karen Bradley heckled by Cannock Question Time crowd

By Richard Guttridge | Cannock | Politics | Published:

Government minister Karen Bradley faced the wrath of the Question Time audience in Cannock as she defended eight years of austerity.

Karen Bradley

Visitors to the Prince of Wales Theatre were far from impressed as Ms Bradley, the Government representative on the flagship BBC debate programme, declared austerity was 'not a choice'.

The remark was met with gasps by the crowd of around 100 on Thursday evening as Question Time returned to the West Midlands.

The Northern Ireland Secretary hit back after an audience member said the Tory Government was responsible for 'chronic underfunding of local services' and labelled austerity a 'harsh and inhumane policy'.

His comments drew a round of applause from the audience and many were disgusted with Ms Bradley's retort.

She said: "Austerity is not a choice, it was something we had to deal with." When met with roars of displeasure, she battled on, shaking her head, saying 'absolutely not'."

Pressed by veteran host David Dimbleby, she continued: "We were in financial difficulties as a country and we needed to get our finances back in order."

Mr Dimbleby replied: "It was your choice, it may not have been a choice for you but people who oppose you obviously saw it as a choice you made."

But Ms Bradley, who refused when pushed several times to say whether she thought Theresa May should resign if her Brexit deal fails to get through Parliament, said: "It was something that had to be done in order we could deal with the deficit that we inherited and it's been difficult, no-one denies it. That's why at the conference a few months ago the Prime Minister said at the next spending review we would start to show the British people the sacrifices they've made because the British people have made sacrifices."

Unsurprisingly, the programme was dominated by Brexit as Theresa May's deal came under fire from members of the audience and Labour's Clive Lewis, tipped as a potential future leader, called for a General Election. One member of the audience quipped that Mrs May would be 'down the job centre' before long.

But it was not just the Tories who in for criticism. Labour was accused of playing party politics over Brexit and that the party's six tests on Brexit were engineered because the Government would never be able to meet them.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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