A Tory MP has been accused of “washing his hands” of the high numbers of children in poverty in his area after saying he “can’t personally do anything” about the problem.
Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in Kent since 2010, was quizzed by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire as he campaigned for re-election.
She said: “Almost half the children in this area are living in poverty.
“What do you think about that, as the local Conservative MP here for the last nine years?”
Almost half the children on the Isle of Sheppey are living in poverty.— Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) November 25, 2019
“I can’t personally do anything about it,” says Gordon Henderson, the Tory MP for the area since 2010.
“What I’m doing is working with other people”https://t.co/ph4ZVvvDcL pic.twitter.com/6gOxg4Vq59
Henderson replied: “This hasn’t just happened over the last nine years. There are deep-rooted reasons why we have deprivation in certain areas of this constituency... and it goes back 50 years. It’s been under Labour administrations and Conservative administrations.
“A lot of it goes back to when they closed the dockyard here on Sheppey many years ago.”
When Derbyshire says that was in the 1950s, he says: “It was in the 50s, and it has never improved. Now, I can’t personally do anything about it...”
“Why not?” she interjects. “Your party has been in government – for nine years.”
Another woman can be heard saying: “Then why should we vote for you if you can’t do anything?”
He continues: “What I’m doing is working with other people. For instance, I am currently working with Swale Borough Council to try and identify... I actually undertook an exercise earlier this year to try to identify the people in my area... and contact them and try and help to resolve their problems.”
Clive Johnson, Labour candidate for the constituency, has hit out at Henderson, branding his comments "shocking".
He told Yahoo News: “I thought it was shocking and complacent.
“He was saying that his government was only partially to blame and washing his hands of the large number of children living in poverty, and denying responsibility when the Conservative government is absolutely to blame.
“People in the area are suffering rising rents, wages are lower than they were in 2010.
“We have the most stagnant wage for 200 years. Universal credit has been very cruel.
“In the last six months Swale food bank use has gone up 40%, and hundreds of the recipients are children.”
After the BBC tweeted a video of Henderson’s comments, Twitter users were outraged with, some saying he shouldn’t be voted back in as the MP for the constituency.
@Ann4b3l tweeted: “He can't do anything about it..... Cmon Sheppey get rid of this waste of time.”
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Jennifer RM wrote: “How can he possibly say he has no responsibility at all for his constituents???
“Personally I know he couldn’t possible solve child poverty but he, as a representative should be promoting collaboration to help ease the detrimental effects of child poverty.”
Paul Holmes wrote: “If this guy is voted back in then there is no helping his constituents.”
Sheerness East, on the Isle of Sheppey, is one of the most deprived areas in England, where an estimated 800 children live in poverty.
Its borough, Swale, is the second most deprived in the county, behind Thanet.