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'Sick and not funny': Political broadcasters criticised after posing in 'cull the Tories' T-shirts

Twitter/@jemmaforte/THTC
Political commentators Marina Purkiss (left) and Jemma Forte are facing a backlash after modelling a controversial T-shirt. (Twitter/@jemmaforte/THTC)

Two political commentators are facing a backlash after posing together with T-shirts bearing the message: "Save the badgers... cull the Tories".

Jemma Forte and Marina Purkiss showed off the tops in a now-deleted Twitter post that has attracted criticism in light of the murders of Tory MP Sir David Amess and Labour MP Jo Cox.

However, both Forte and Purkiss and the company behind the T-shirt have insisted the slogan does not advocate violence and is about removing the Conservative Party from power.

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Still, it was enough to cause upset online.

Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher, wrote on Twitter: "The left are full of hate. Latest example: 'Cull the Tories'."

Another Twitter user added: "My husband's best friend was Sir David Amess [who] was stabbed to death 21 times for being a Tory MP. This is sick, not funny and quite frankly pathetic."

@jemmaforte
Following the murder of Tory MP David Amess, some thought these T-shirts were too close to the bone. (Twitter/@jemmaforte/@xraygal245)

Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote on Twitter: "Two MPs have been killed, another faced a plot to kill her, many face regular death threats.

"I don't think talk of 'culling' helps make the UK a better place. Please find another way of making your point."

Others were, however, quick to point out a video clip from last year of Bryant in the House of Commons calling for a "cull of Tory ministers" from government.

Sir David Amess, who was an MP for nearly 40 years, was stabbed during a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in October 2021.

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It followed the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, an ardent Remainer who was shot and stabbed multiple times by a far-right extremist just days before the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Both incidents raised concerns about the level of protection made available to MPs, with members now given more 'bespoke' security arrangements following a parliamentary review.

In her now-deleted post, Jemma Forte wrote: "Me and @MarinaPurkiss are loving these oh so satirical T-shirts from @THTCCLOTHING", adding that 50% of proceeds would go to London rough sleeping charity ShowerBox.

The writer and podcaster and regular on The Jeremy Vine Show later tweeted: "I've deleted a pic of myself & @marinapurkiss.

"Our intention was to highlight a company who donate to great charities BUT words matter & enough ppl have expressed upset for us to realise we've got this one wrong."

An image of murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess is displayed near the altar in St Peters Catholic Church before a vigil in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A tribute to Amess in St Peters Catholic Church, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, after the long-serving MP was stabbed to death in his own constituency surgery. (AP)

She pointed to a news headline about Tory MPs demanding a "cabinet cull" during the turbulent final few months of Boris Johnson's government.

The T-shirt's makers, "environmentally, socially and economically sustainable" clothing brand THTC, also went to lengths to explain what they meant by "cull".

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A listing for the T-shirt on its site says: "The term cull means to examine (a collection or group) in order to select desired parts or, esp., to discard or destroy unwanted parts or to reject something as not being up to standard.

"Much like the voters in the recently elections when they turned their backs on the current government.

"We absolutely do not condone or promote the use of violence in any form. We do, however, stand up against violent and racist language and policies, including the anti-immigration bill proposed by Suella Braverman."

Calista Toner, president of the Glasgow University Conservatives, said: "Context is key. There'a a major difference between a 'cabinet cull' and the suggestion it's better to 'cull' Tories instead of badgers. Recognise wrongdoing. Don't explain it away."

However, many people said it should be obvious that the meaning isn't a violent one and simply calls for the Conservatives to be voted out of power.

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"People's minds tend to go straight to what they want to read... which often tells you a lot about the kind of person they are," one defender wrote.

Another added: "Overly sensitive. We all know a cull of workforce isn’t literal killing. It’s a play on words from literal killing of badgers to the figurative cull of Tories."

"Nah, it's fair satire. It says 'Cull the Tories' not 'Cull Tory MPs', it's talking about ending the party," another wrote.

Watch: The moment Islamic State fanatic Ali Harbi admits to murdering David Amess