New Chancellor Rishi Sunak unwittingly got himself into hot water last Friday when he tweeted out a seemingly innocent picture of himself making a cup of Yorkshire tea. No sooner had he name checked the tea than thousands of keyboard warriors took to the Twittersphere to accuse him of casting a permanent smear on the much-loved British brand.
Quick Budget prep break making tea for the team. Nothing like a good Yorkshire brew. pic.twitter.com/zhoQM9Ksho
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 21, 2020
Sunak isn’t the first politician to face a backlash on social media on account of his choice of food. You only need to cast your mind back to Boris’s involvement with Heck sausages in the summer of 2019 to see why politicians often seem to deliver the kiss of death to the products on their plates:
Back in June 2019, Boris Johnson paid an ill-fated visit to another Yorkshire firm called Heck. Boris thought nothing of bedecking himself in a string of Heck’s finest sausages in order to promote British produce and drive home his Brexit stance. But a campaign was soon mounted on Twitter for people to boycott the company’s sausages because of Johnson’s views on the EU. Ironically Heck had gone on record prior to the PM’s visit to state their concerns over how Brexit would affect their mostly Eastern European workforce. In the light of Heck and Yorkshire Tea, the good folk of God’s own country would be forgiven for wondering what on earth they need to do to keep the Westminster set at bay. Scrap HS2? Oh well, never mind.
The pasty tax
During the March budget of 2012, John Mann took George Osborne to task on his proposed levy of 20 per cent on hot takeaway food. He asked Osborne if he could tell him when the last time was that he ate a Cornish pasty. Before he could think better of it, the Chancellor answered dismissively that he had ‘no idea’. The ensuing ridicule from the Opposition was instant and he was predictably labelled as out of touch. The furore over “the pasty tax”, as it came to be known, rumbled on for weeks, with David Cameron making matters worse. The former PM claimed he had eaten a pasty at Leeds station only for it to be revealed that the only shop selling pasties had shut down two years previously.
Never one to miss out on a spot of bad PR, Ed Miliband took two of his front bench MPs Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves to buy sausage rolls and pasties in Greggs. The video footage of the sharply dressed trio awkwardly queueing up to purchase ten pasties in a line of builders dressed in high vis jackets didn’t exactly convey the ‘in touch’ image they were hoping for:
President Xi Jinping’s Pint
During the Chinese President’s State visit to the UK in August 2015, David Cameron treated Xi Jinping to a pint of Green King IPA in a 16th century Oxfordshire pub – The Plough at Cadsden. The images of the two quickly went viral both here and back in China. Since the President’s visit, the pub has become something of a Mecca for Chinese tourists hoping to walk in their president’s footsteps. So pleased were the Chinese with the positive PR that in late 2019 it emerged that The Plough had been bought by Chinese investors for an undisclosed fee. Looks like it’s not just the 5G network that’s up for grabs…
Almost a year ago to the day, Westminster was awash with talk of the newly formed political party Change UK (or was it change.org?). What sort of launch venue would best befit this trailblazing new outfit that was purportedly set to transform the face of British politics? Step forward Nando’s! And so it was that Chuka Umunna & co settled on a hitherto unknown branch of the Portuguese chicken chain in Victoria to set the wheels of change in motion. Unfortunately for Change UK, not even the piri piri sauce could spice up their floundering new venture which fell flat on its face almost as soon as it had begun. The ten fledgling members had trouble deciding on a name, let alone a manifesto. Good job the Nando’s menu is short.
John Gummer and the BSE burger
29 years ago, Minister for Agriculture John Gummer made headlines when he attempted to feed a beef burger to his four year old daughter Cordelia in front of TV cameras at the height of the BSE crisis. His daughter shied away from taking a bite and so Gummer took one on her behalf, declaring it ‘delicious’. With an EU ban on British beef already in force and mounting fears that BSE could be passed on to humans, Gummer wanted to restore confidence in British beef. Talk of a BSE pandemic proved to be unfounded but Gummer’s own involvement in the controversy ended in tragedy when a family friend went on to develop and die of the disease in 2006.
Donald Tusk’s piece of cake
Boris Johnson declared with typical chutzpah in 2018 that Britain’s negotiating policy on Brexit was to ‘have our cake and eat it’ while Theresa May accused the EU of cherry-picking during talks. EU council president Donald Tusk was quick to reclaim Johnson’s cake-eating analogy. During an EU summit that year, he ushered Theresa May over to a strategically placed cake stand and offered her a slice. The gesture turned out to be far from innocent. He swiftly posted a picture of the moment on Instagram with the caption ‘A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.’ Tusk landed a killer blow and, while no particular cake brands were harmed, brand May took a bashing.