`Bury Swampy' remark fuels gaffe machine

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Indy Politics
The culture of bar-room bores which has infected dinner parties in East Anglia appeared to be spreading to the Tory Party yesterday after a second minister caused outrage with off-the-cuff remarks.

John Watts, the transport minister, appalled environmental activists by saying he would be happy to see the roads protester nicknamed Swampy "buried in concrete".

It came as the Prime Minister and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, jumped to the defence of the Home Office minister David Maclean who outraged liberal opinion by appearing to bracket Roisin McAliskey, held in custody for extradition to Germany on alleged IRA charges, with the convicted murderer Myra Hindley.

A tape recording was made of Mr Watts by Hull University students as he chatted after a meeting at the Tory headquarters. Mr Watts said: "I couldn't care less what Swampy says. I would happily bury him in concrete."

Mr Maclean, wrote to a 79-year-old constituent, Judith Naylor of Appleby, Cumbria, who had asked for compassion for Ms McAliskey, while she was pregnant and in prison without trial. He replied: "When the day comes that the evil scum of the IRA are no longer murdering the innocent, and our children are no longer tortured by the Hindleys of this world, then I am certain that when I no longer need all my compassion for the innocent, I shall be able to spare some for the perpetrators."

Mr Howard said: "The BBC's treatment of this story has been a disgrace. Their news bulletins this morning suggested David Maclean had equated Roisin McAliskey with Myra Hindley. That is completely untrue.

Mr Major said the reports of Mr Maclean's comments had been "grotesque".