THE general election may be more than a year away – but the rivalry between two men vying to represent Burton in Parliament from 2015 is already heating up after the pair became embroiled in an extraordinary Twitter spat.
In the blue corner was the town’s current incumbent, Tory MP Andrew Griffiths, who went toe to toe from behind the keyboard with Labour candidate Jon Wheale as they squabbled over who was best placed to represent Burton in the years to come.
Arguments raged between the two on issues including place of birth and how many visits had been made to Burton businesses.
At one point, the MP advised his opponent to back out and pour himself ‘a very stiff drink’.
The row was sparked after Mr Griffiths tweeted his delight at East Staffordshire’s latest unemployment figures, in which he seized on the fact unemployment rates in the borough had fallen by 60 per cent since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010.
He asked his followers why they would ‘risk’ putting power in the hands of Labour again, which drew a swift response from the Burton and Uttoxeter Constituency Labour Party – which argued the figures did not take into account Christmas job losses.
Mr Griffiths was riled by a comment from the Burton and Uttoxeter branch of the party’s Twitter account which said they ‘knew what was actually happening’ and were not ‘just repeating statistics’.
In response, Mr Griffiths said he regularly met with company bosses and quizzed rival Mr Wheale on why he had yet to visit Punch Taverns, a major employer in the town.
When Mr Wheale replied he would be visiting the firm next week, Mr Griffiths leapt on the comment and accused him of ‘pontificating about issues which affect hundreds of jobs in Burton’ without having met the companies involved.
“Don’t pretend you know about the Burton pub industry,” the MP tweeted, before claiming the Labour candidate was ‘reckless and dangerous with jobs in Burton’.
The row continued to get more heated as Mr Griffiths was invited to take part in a public debate in Burton.
When the MP continued to poke away at his rival, claiming he ‘didn’t know a single thing about the Burton pub industry’, Mr Wheale reached into his armoury and referred to the fact he was born and raised in Burton, which was quickly batted away by his rival.
The pair continued to bicker about which of them was best for Burton until Mr Wheale bowed out by saying ‘I don’t think we’ll get very far this way’ – after nearly two hours and more than 20 tweets between them.