A Liberal Democrat MP was in hot water today after using a slang term for ”what the f*ck” while addressing a group of school children.
Steve Gilbert used the text abbreviation ”WTF” as he discussed university costs with 200 kids at Penrice Community College in St Austell, Cornwall.
He told the assembly: ”You will all be thinking about leaving school in a few weeks and must be thinking ‘WTF’ about going to university.”
The term is common among teenagers and frequently used on social networking sites alongside abbreviations such as ‘OMG’ for ‘Oh my god’.
Parents have described his choice of words as ”ridiculous” but the MP for St Austell and Newquay has defended them as ”a throwaway remark”.
Local Tory councillor Steve Double, whose 16-year-old son Tom attends the school, said: ”I don’t think Mr Gilbert was giving out a very appropriate message or in a very appropriate way.
”It is absolutely ridiculous that a politician, who is supposedly a respected member of the community could behave like this.
”Perhaps he was trying to be ‘cool’ but as a politician, that isn’t your job.”
Mr Gilbert, who has represented the ward since last year, was giving an assembly to the whole of Year 11 on further education when he made the gaffe last Friday.
He was invited to give a speech as the College had been made an academy and had recently received an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report.
Mr Double, who sits on St Austell Town Council, was so concerned that he rang the school on Monday morning to complain.
He said: ”When our lad came home the comment was all he was talking about. All the kids were on Facebook chatting about it.
”I can’t believe he is trying to defend his actions either. He is completely out of touch.”
But Mr Gilbert was unrepentant yesterday and gave a tongue-in-cheek response to his critics.
”All I have to say in reply to this is OMG,” he said. ”From my perspective this is a nonsense political attack and is a bit petty.
”It was nothing more than a throwaway remark and I clearly wouldn’t have stood in front of a group of 16-year-olds and sworn. I don’t have a career suicide tendency.
”Meeting constituents is a part of this job which I treasure the most. Needless to say, no offence was intended in my comments.
”I was simply communicating with a group of students in a language which they understand.”
David Parker, headteacher of Penrice Community College, said: ”I was there at the time and I know people have picked up on something that was said during the talk.
”I can’t remember the phrase being said exactly but I have had a phone call from a parent and am aware of pupils talking about it.
”I try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt.
”Perhaps if he had thought about it before he said it he wouldn’t have used that phrase but maybe it was a slip of the tongue.
”If he had asked me before whether that was an appropriate term to use I would have said probably not.
”I am hoping not to dwell on the incident too much as the rest of the MP’s speech was very eloquent and engaging.”