Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Umunna mocked over Worcester gaffe

Chuka Umunna mispronounced Worcester during a radio interview
Chuka Umunna mispronounced Worcester during a radio interview

Chuka Umunna has become the latest high-profile politician to be left red-faced by a local radio gaffe after mispronouncing the name of a well-known English city.

The shadow business secretary took to the airwaves in Worcester to plug Labour's regional growth policies.

But he so badly mangled its name during an interview that it ended up sounding like "Wichita", the US city made famous by a Glen Campbell hit.

The howler was seized on by BBC Hereford and Worcester which used the song in a segment the next day mocking his error.

Local Tory MP Robin Walker said it proved Mr Umunna, the MP for Streatham in London, was part of a "metropolitan" set which was out of touch with voters beyond the capital.

But a spokesman for the shadow business secretary said "of course" he knew how to pronounce the name of the city and that it had been a simple "mistake".

And he hit out at Conservatives for focusing on the slip rather than debating policies.

"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 said.

"The fact is that of course Chuka knows how to pronounce the name - he simply made a mistake in a live interview.

"Rather than engaging with Labour's plans to boost local growth and help small businesses, local Tories are instead focusing on a mistake in a radio interview."

A key marginal seat, "Worcester Woman" was one of the groups of voters targeted by Tony Blair as he secured a landslide win for Labour in 1997.

Mr Walker told MailOnline: " There is a serious side to this. It shows that they 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.

"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."

Labour leader Ed Miliband faced embarrassment when he was unable to name the Labour leader in Swindon during a radio interview in the Wiltshire town and Prime Minister David Cameron denied Chelmsford had been unfairly targeted for cuts - when he was on air in neighbouring Colchester.

The spokesman for Mr Umunna also sought to suggest the Prime Minister was guilty of a Worcester-related gaffe when he wrongly, on a US chat show, identified the writer of Land Of Hope And Glory as Edward Elgar - who was born near the city.

US tennis great John McEnroe might be able to offer tips to Mr Umunna after his own method for getting place names right on air was exposed.

After McEnroe gave a faultless pronunciation of Worcester during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live, co-host Tim Henman revealed the American had written it down as "Wuster" to remind him.

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