A Conservative minister has defended his party’s social media strategy after Tory MPs joined criticism of a post attacking Labour with an image of a BBC News presenter giving the middle finger live on air.

In footage from a BBC news bulletin on Wednesday, chief presenter Maryam Moshiri was seen raising her middle finger to the camera just as the broadcast began.

The on-air blunder attracted considerable attention and prompted an apology from the BBC presenter.

On Thursday the Conservatives used the image on X – formerly known as Twitter – to mock Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

A post from the Conservatives captioned the image of Ms Moshiri as: “Labour when you ask for their plans to tackle illegal migration.”

But this attracted criticism from senior Tory MPs, including Alicia Kearns and Tobias Ellwood.

Newly-appointed legal migration minister Tom Pursglove defended his party on Friday.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’ve not spent an awful amount of time on Twitter in the last 24 hours as you’ll imagine, having just been appointed yesterday and trying to immerse myself in all of the detail.

“But the bottom line is it does highlight the fact that the Labour Party doesn’t have a credible alternative.

“I’m sure that Alicia and other colleagues will have fed in their views to central office and the party chairman.”

Ms Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, posted: “Amazed this has not – despite requests – been taken down, it is beneath us.”

Mr Ellwood also posted: “Please delete this post.”