Conservative MP celebrates performance of ‘British Empire’ in Rio
After an online backlash, Heather Wheeler insisted her remark was a ‘tongue in cheek pop’
A Conservative MP has been ridiculed for suggesting that the Olympics were really won by the British Empire.
While the empire is a distant memory for most, Heather Wheeler appeared keen to resurrect it for the purposes of a tweet on Tuesday evening.
“Now that’s what I call winning!!!” tweeted the committed Brexiteer - along with a map of former imperial territories and the words: “Empire Goes for Gold.”
Wheeler appeared to have been trying to link the feelgood factor around Britain’s Olympic success to the UK’s looming exit from the EU.
But the post was branded "deeply offensive to so many people and their ancestors" by Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy, while others expressed similar outrage on Twitter.
Jan Smith called it “offensive, insensitive and ignorant” while Lee Davies asked her: “Have you been hacked or transported back 60 years?”
Political commentator Marina Hyde compared the tweet to the historical gaffes of Boris Johnson, saying Wheeler had announced herself as “foreign secretary-in-waiting”.
But the Tory MP did receive support from the likes of Tory MEP Daniel Hanan and Conservative Home editor Mark Wallace. “I see that the outrage bus is underway, incapable of accepting @HeatherWheeler was making a joke in response to absurd EU medal tables,” said Wallace.
Wheeler doggedly refused to apologise or retract the tweet, but eventually explained herself to her local paper.
"It was a tongue in cheek pop after the European Parliament tweet – it was purely that," she insisted.
The official European Parliament feed had previously tweeted out "huge congratulations to all the European winners and participants in Rio".
Speaking to the Burton Mail, Wheeler added: "I also wanted to congratulate Team GB on a brilliant result and thirdly congratulate the Commonwealth countries who also did very well.
"Fourth, I am also looking forwarded to establishing new trade agreements.
"That was it – nothing more. Let's just enjoy the summer!"