Conservative party chairman Jake Berry has apologised for his remarks calling on struggling Britons to “go out there and get that new job”.
The senior Tory admitted he regretted his “clumsy” comments was he grilled on his remarks during interviews on Thursday – insisting he understood how hard people worked.
Mr Berry told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “People know that when their bills arrive, they can either cut their consumption or they can get a higher salary or higher wages, go out there and get that new job.”
Asked about the remarks on Times Radio, he said: “I do think my language was a bit clumsy in that regard and I regret it.”
He added: “The point I was making ... is that the government needs to go for growth to ensure that it can grow the economy and Britain can get a pay rise. You don’t have to tell me how hard people graft in this economy. I know how hard people work.”
In an awkward exchange on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Berry appeared to suggest that his remarks had been misinterpreted. “I accept, actually, they were ever so clumsy and I’m sorry if people have misinterpreted it,” the party chair said.
Mr Berry also said “you don’t have to tell me what graft is”, adding: “I represent an east Lancashire constituency with people working in manufacturing – and I want their employees to create roles that are highly-paid and more secure, and that was the point I wanted to make.”
The Tory MP was accused of “naked cruelty” over his weekend comments. Labour said they had echoes of former minister Norman Tebbit infamously telling the unemployed: “Get on your bike and look for work.”
Defending the Liz Truss government, the Tory chairman rejected Labour’s claim that the prime minister and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget were to blame for the huge rise in mortgage payments faced by families.
He told Times Radio: “It’s very likely if you look at global trends that interest rates set by the independent Bank of England would have gone up over the coming months ahead in any event, so imagine if the government hadn’t have acted [on energy bills].
Mr Berry added; “Imagine if families were faced with a £6,000 energy bill that they couldn’t afford and their mortgages going up. That would be completely unsustainable.”
He also said the Truss radical tax-cutting plan for growth is not like writing an “A-level economics essay”.
“We have a plan to grow our economy so businesses can take that next step and invest, and the reason we want businesses to do that isn’t just some academic exercise ... sort of writing an A-level economics essay,” Mr Berry told LBC.
He added: “I must admit I didn’t do economics at A level. But it isn’t ... like that, it’s about transforming the lives of people in this country.”
The Tory chairman also said the government would have to wait until inflation figures are available to make a decision on uprating benefits this autumn.
Many Tory backbenchers are unhappy at the idea of a real-terms cut to benefits, after Ms Truss refused to say she would commit to raising payments in line with inflation, as promised by the government earlier this year.
“We’ve got to wait until those figures are available … and they will be discussed and a decision will be announced in due course,” said Mr Berry. “You simply cannot make a decision on figures you do not currently have.”
It comes as former cabinet Nadine Dorries warned the the Tory party faced electoral “wipeout” if Ms Truss carried on with a “lurch to the right”.
Mr Berry said Ms Dorries was “a very fine individual and a very fine Conservative”, but said he did not “understand” or “agree with” her comments.