Disgruntled passerby challenges Tory MP Rory Stewart before he meets homeless people and refugees on Sunderland visit

Former Conservative leadership challenger Rory Stewart was challenged by a disgruntled passerby during a fact-finding visit to Sunderland.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 5:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th August 2019, 3:25 pm

Mr Stewart, who is the Tory MP for Penrith and the Border, visited the city centre on Wednesday afternoon as part of an informal tour of the region to learn about "local issues".

Chatting to anyone who approached him, Stewart was told by the unnamed man: "Your government has screwed this country up good and proper. So regardless of what you might come back with, it is how I see it.

"I see the poverty, I see the people on the streets, I see the unemployed. I have never seen as many poor elderly and young people on the streets."

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Conservative MP Rory Stewart, right, is challenged by a passerby in Sunderland city centre on Wednesday.

When Stewart then asked him if things were better a decade ago - when Labour were still in power - the man, who said he previously worked in the building trade, replied: "Damn right it was. I was earning more money 10 years ago than I am now."

The man then accused the Conservatives of cutting services such as the police and NHS "to the bone" before storming away from their Market Square discussion.

Asked about their exchange, the MP said: "I never unfortunately got beyond him being angry. I wanted to ask him what services he wanted in Sunderland and try and get away from a Punch and Judy discussion."

Stewart also accepted an impromptu invitation from Father Marc Lyden-Smith, of nearby St Mary's Church, to meet a homeless man and to visit a drop-in centre for refugees and asylum seekers at St Mary's.

Stewart, left, and the passerby discuss the Conservatives' record in power.

Father Lyden-Smith said: "It was brave of him as a Conservative politician to come to Sunderland and I am pleased he accepted my invitation to meet asylum seekers and refugees."

Stewart, who was defeated in his bid to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister earlier this year, visited Sunderland after trips to South Shields and Durham and is due in Hartlepool on Thursday.

He explained: "It helps me to learn a lot. As a politician I spend a lot of time in Parliament and I spend a lot of time in the Lake District and I wanted to visit places I have not visited before and speak to people about the issues which matter to them.

"The people here in Sunderland are very positive with warmth and energy and care for others in need."