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Rishi Sunak’s tweet stirs a storm in a teacup


This picture tweeted by Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stirred an online row. (Photo: Twitter)
This picture tweeted by Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stirred an online row. (Photo: Twitter)

RISHI SUNAK’s recent tweet on “making tea for the team” during a “quick Budget prep break” has brewed into a cause célèbre.

So much so that the online outcry prompted the chancellor to post a cheeky teatime tweet today (25): “Great to catch up with colleagues this morning to discuss all things #Budget2020 with a cup of (unbranded) tea.”

What had stirred social media was not Sunak’s gesture conveyed in the weekend tweet, but a visual of a large bag of Yorkshire Tea and an endorsing line—“Nothing like a good Yorkshire brew”—that accompanied it.

Yorkshire Tea, owned by Taylors of Harrogate, clarified on the same day that it was in no way involved with the tweet.

The tweet, however, led to sustained calls for boycotting the brand. And, stung with rebuke, Yorkshire Tea requested social media critics to “try to be kind”.

The company said it was “pretty shocking to see the determination some have had to drag us into a political mudfight”. It also reminded critics that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, too, had said about discussing “issues over a pot of Yorskhire Tea” in 2017.

“On Friday, the chancellor shared a photo of our tea. Politicians do that sometimes (Jeremy Corbyn did it in 2017),” it said. “We weren’t asked or involved – and we said so the same day. Lots of people got angry with us all the same.

“For some, our tea just being drunk by someone they don’t like means it’s forever tainted, and they’ve made sure we know it.”

Yorkshire Tea said its staff spent the past few days “answering furious accusations and boycott calls”.

“It’s easier to be on the receiving end of this as a brand than as an individual,” the company’s Twitter thread said.

“There’s more emotional distance and I’ve had a team to support me when it got a bit much. But for anyone about to vent their rage online, even to a company – please remember there’s a human on the other end of it, and try to be kind.”

In response, comedian Mark Watson tweeted: “This thread, in which Yorkshire Tea politely ask people not to abuse them for a photo they had nothing to do with, made me gesture with vague despair into the void.”