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Twitter Backlash Hits U.K. Government

Patronizing Ad Underlines Gap Between Conservative Party and Voters

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It's not often that fiscal policy is responsible for the top trending hashtag on Twitter, but a patronizing ad by the U.K. government has propelled it to the top of the social media conversation.

The ad, created in-house to promote on social media the U.K.'s newly reduced taxes on bingo and beer, reads, "Bingo! Cutting the bingo tax and beer duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy." It was tweeted by the Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps, along with the command, "RT to spread the word."

Referring to hardworking people as "they" underlines the distance between privileged politicians and ordinary voters. Rivals seized on the mistake, and social media was awash with memes including, "That's what you wretched proles get up to, isn't it? We'll be over here counting our money," or "Cutting the NHS, police, and welfare safety net while patronizing hardworking people with bingo and beer."

Ed Kitchingman, research and insight director at We Are Social, said, "The Conservative Party [also known as the Tory Party] must be kicking themselves… Grant Shapp's tweet was seized on as an example of a party out of touch. Some [Members of Parliament] or commentators might laugh this off as just a storm on social, but this just shows a lack of understanding about social's influence. One ill-considered tweet has undermined the core message."

The modern-day version of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" decree saw the #ToryBingo hashtag used 40,000 times last night, making it the top trending hashtag in the U.K.

U.K. prime minister David Cameron
U.K. prime minister David Cameron

It's not the first time the Tories have been scuppered by social. Earlier this month, prime minister David Cameron tweeted a picture of himself on the phone, saying, "I've been speaking to @BarackObama about the situation in Ukraine. We are united in condemnation of Russia's actions."

The self-important tweet was instantly spoofed. Actor Patrick Stewart, star of the X Men and Star Trek movie franchises, tweeted a picture of himself using a tub of Wet Ones as a pretend phone, with the words, "I'm now patched in as well. Sorry for the delay," and @windlerob tweeted a picture of Mr. Obama on the phone with the line, "David who?"

That meme went viral and Mr. Cameron tried to save himself the following day with another tweet, this time with a picture of him and Bill Clinton. It said, "Talking to another U.S. president, this time face to face, not on the phone."

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