'It's obscene' - Anger as Tories defend Norfolk MP's hustings helicopter use
PUBLISHED: 14:49 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:04 03 July 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
Great Yarmouth's MP has come under fire from rival politicians after he was revealed to have used helicopters during travel between prime ministerial leadership debates.
Leading Labour politicians have criticised Tory MP Brandon Lewis, who is also Conservative Party chairman, after he was said to have sky-hopped alongside leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in three separate helicopters to hustings events.
According to the Standard, on at least one occasion he had a helicopter of his own during a campaign which has seen seven helicopter flights and a private plane charter pressed into action.
A Conservative campaign spokesman confirmed the trio had travelled separately from Carlisle to Manchester, but that helicopters were rarely used and only in exceptional circumstances.
With one of the candidates set to be the future PM, each needed a protection team so it was not possible to share a flight, he added.
The candidates are attending 16 hustings across the country, ending on July 17, and it was sometimes difficult to get to events on the same day.
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Countering accusations cash had been "splurged" on the flights the spokesman said the helicopters had been "donated" and that there was no cost to the party or the tax payer.
However, Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group at Great Yarmouth council said whatever the reason or logistic difficulty it sent out the wrong message to Mr Lewis' constituents, many of whom were struggling to put food on the table.
He said: "It is obscene. In a time of austerity it seems a smash in the teeth to normal working people.
"One of the wards has the highest level of deprivation in the UK. There are ways of getting about and there are much cheaper forms of transport.
"If you can accept it you would have thought one helicopter for the three of them would have been perfectly fine.
"I appreciate they have to travel round the hustings but at a time when people are really hurting it is just hard to take."
Mike Smith-Clare, a county and borough councillor who ran against Mr Lewis in the 2017 general election, said: "We are expected to believe that austerity affects everyone but actually all it is doing is hurting the most vulnerable."