Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh was yesterday branded "a complete muppet" by a Cabinet minister, for criticising the Government's policies on the countryside.
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, issued the colourful rebuke after the television presenter and author questioned the response to ash dieback disease and warned that the Conservative Party had lost its roots in rural areas.
"Time was when the Tory party was the party of the shires and understood how the countryside works," Titchmarsh said at the launch of the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show last month.
"There seems to me very little investment in rural areas and the countryside. We have to look after agriculture and horticulture: growing things. This is how we feed ourselves."
But Mr Paterson, a keen rider and huntsman, hinted at the Government's frustration with the gardener's views. "He's a complete muppet," he told the Daily Telegraph, "... missed completely everything we're doing."