Union leaders have rounded angrily on Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith after he suggested the unemployed should "get on a bus" to look for jobs.
Mr Duncan Smith was accused of a "calculated insult" to the jobless in remarks that carried echoes of Norman Tebbit's infamous suggestion during the downturn of the 1980s that the unemployed should get on their bikes to find work.
The Government has acknowledged that almost 500,000 public sector workers are set to lose their jobs as a result of the cuts set out in Chancellor George Osborne's spending review on Wednesday.
Interviewed on the BBC2's Newsnight about the cuts, Mr Duncan Smith said: "The truth is there are jobs. They may not be absolutely in the town you are living in. They may be in a neighbouring town."
He pointed to Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, as an example of a place where people had become "static" and "didn't know if they got on the bus, an hour's journey they'd be in Cardiff and they could look for the job there".
He added: "We need to recognise the jobs often don't come to you. Sometimes you need to go to the jobs."
Downing Street said that he had simply been making the case for flexible labour markets, of which Prime Minister David Cameron was "in favour". However the comments drew a furious response from the unions, with Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey saying they showed that the Tories remained the "nasty party".
"Can the ConDem coalition really believe that the unemployment being created by savage Government cuts will be fixed by having people wandering across the country with their meagre possessions crammed into the luggage racks of buses?" he said.
Unite national officer Graham Stevenson said that Mr Duncan Smith's remarks came as Government cuts meant that bus services were in decline: "Iain Duncan Smith is callously telling people to get on a bus to look for a job but the Tories are actually cutting bus services."
But Mr Duncan Smith defended his call: "The unions are showing themselves to be totally out of touch with reality with these pathetic remarks. They seem to be suggesting that anyone who commutes to work is somehow doing the wrong thing. I would suggest they apologise and recognise that ordinary, decent people want to improve their lives and do the right thing for their families and so value work and get on the bus."