A Cabinet minister today branded TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh a "complete muppet" for criticising the Government's countryside policies.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson accused the gardener of not paying attention to what was going on.
The rebuke came after Mr Titchmarsh 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," he said at the launch of the 100th 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 interviewed in the Daily Telegraph, Tory MP Mr Paterson - who was brought up in Shropshire and is a keen horse rider and huntsman - said: "He's a complete muppet, missed completely everything we're doing."
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