Britain’s senior-most Indian-origin minister, Priti Patel, was on Tuesday at the centre of a sexism row in relation to her stand in favour of the country’s exit from the European Union.
The UK’s employment minister and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion has been a very vocal supporter of Brexit in the June 23 referendum, leading to a disparaging remark about her name by a trade union chief in favour of remaining within the economic bloc.
“Priti Patel, surely a contradiction in her name,” said Tim Roache, head of the GMB union, implying that Patel’s stand was not “pretty”.
Reacting to criticism of being sexist by MPs, members of the public on social media and the official “Britain Stronger in Europe” camp distancing itself from his remarks as having “no place in this campaign”, he added: “Not sexist in the slightest. Listen to the context. What she says and thinks of workers and rights is not pretty.”
With just 15 days to go for the crucial vote, both camps are on overdrive to win over those sitting on the fence over which way to vote.
Cameron on Tuesday called an emergency press conference in London to counter myths he said have been put about by the Vote Leave campaign.
The prime minister said he was concerned at seeing the misleading statements on the news the night before.
“A Leave campaign resorting to total untruths to con people into taking a leap in the dark. It’s irresponsible and it’s wrong and it’s time that the Leave campaign was called out on the nonsense that they are peddling,” he said.
His comments came as he also made a last ditch effort to get young and other un-registered voters to sign-up for the referendum in time to meet the Electoral Commission’s deadline on Tuesday.
Cameron told The Independent: “For many people this will be one of the most important choices they make. This is a vote about the future of the country. This vote will determine the sort of economy young people grow up in, the sort of opportunities that our children and grandchildren have.
“This is bigger than any one politician that is why I urge everyone to go out and register so they can have their say.”
Figures from the Electoral Commission show that since May over 1.35 million people have applied to register to vote online of which 763,183 were under the age of 34 -- those most likely to support a remain vote.
But a series of polls in recent days have suggested momentum is building behind Brexit campaigners.
A YouGov poll this week showed 45 per cent of Britons would vote to leave the EU compared with 41 per cent who would vote to stay in.
A separate survey by TNS showed 43 per cent backed Brexit, while 41 per cent supported continued EU membership.
A rattled financial market reacted with the pound falling by as much as 1.5 cents against the dollar.
Image: Conservative MP and Minister of State for Employment, Priti Patel holds a Vote Leave poster. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images