Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna doesn't know his Worcester from his Wichita

MP makes slip during live radio interview about helping local businesses

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Indy Politics

One is a Kansas town where Wyatt Earp served as a law officer during the days of cowboys and cattle drives, while the other is a beautiful English cathedral city on the River Severn. They could hardly be more different.

So Chuka Umunna, shadow Business Secretary and rising Labour party star, will doubtless be wondering just quite how he managed to say something that sounded like “Wichita” instead of Worcester during a live radio interview about helping local businesses.

“I doubt most people on the streets in Hereford and Wichita know what a local enterprise partnership is about but your local branch of the chambers of commerce or federation of small businesses, they will know what that's about,” he told BBC Hereford and Worcester.

A spokesman for the Mr Umunna insisted he had “simply made a mistake”, saying “of course Chuka knows how to pronounce the name”.

“This was a mistake in one of many breakfast radio interviews Chuka has done this week promoting Labour's ambitious plans to decentralise power and spur better-balanced growth,” he added.

But the spokesman's attempt to seize the high ground was never likely to succeed.

BBC Hereford and Worcester used the song Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell to mock the blunder and the local Conservative MP, Robin Walker, did not hold back.

“There is a serious side to this. It shows that they [Labour] continue to be a metropolitan party focused on the big cities, rather than places like Worcester. Chuka should know better - he has been to Worcester,” Mr Walker told the Daily Mail.

“His leader has been something like eight times in three years. Every time he comes their share of the vote has fallen. So I hope they keep coming, and eventually they will learn the name of the place.”

Mr Umunna's mistake contrasted with a faultless pronunciation by tennis star John McEnroe during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live - although co-host Tim Henman revealed the American had written it down as “Wuster” to remind himself how to say it.