Shapps Ridiculed For 'Patronising' Bingo Tweet

The Tory chairman has been criticised for tweeting a Budget poster hailing beer and bingo cuts a reward for "hard-working people".

In what will be considered a gift to those who claim the Tories are "out of touch", Grant Shapps tweeted: "Budget 2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy. RT to spread the word."

The tweet also had attached an official Conservative poster carrying the same message in relation to George Osborne's budget announcement that bingo hall duty would be cut to 10% and there would be 2p off a pint of beer.

The Welwyn Hatfield MP's tweet sparked a storm of ridicule on Twitter, with many accusing Mr Shapps of "patronising" the working class. A host of take-offs mocking his tweet have also appeared online.

The hashtag #torybingo was trending at one stage, with suggestions for number calling including "Eton's Den number 10" and "Bullingdon mates 88".

The Prime Minister's spokesman insisted on Thursday morning that Mr Shapps had Mr Cameron's "full confidence".

He said: "He thinks he is doing a very good job."

Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary of the Treasury, said Mr Shapps had effectively undermined the whole Budget.

"I thought it was a spoof at first, it's just pretty extraordinary. It may be our Budget but it's their words, I think it's rather patronising," he told BBC's Newsnight.

"Also I think it actually demeans some quite sensible things. There are good reasons to be supporting bingo, there are good reasons to be encouraging our pub sector to be stronger - that’s the analysis behind those measures."

Simon Blackwell, scriptwriter on the political satire The Thick of It, tweeted: "Genuinely, if that Conservative beer & bingo ad had come up at a Thick Of It script meeting we'd have rejected it as being too far-fetched."

However, a senior Conservative source said: "We are quite proud of those tax cuts ... We stand by what was said in that advert."

The Chancellor said on Thursday morning: "I think it's patronising to say that it doesn't matter what the price of beer is or it doesn't matter that we don't help our Bingo halls. Because three quarters of the Bingo halls in this country have closed in recent decades.

"These are important Budget measures, they are not the only Budget measures.

"This whole story... was whipped up by a Labour Party that didn't have anything else to say about the economy."

He told BBC Breakfast: "We are communicating what's in the Budget. The more people hear about the Budget the more confident people can be that they are on the right track."

The shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that Mr Osborne must be "frustrated that his head of campaigns puts out an advert patronising working people by saying they'll be happy with a Bingo tax and beer tax. What nonsense that is."

The shadow health secretary Andy Burnham tweeted: "That reminds me of Mr Cholmondley-Warner when he asked Grayson to investigate the "working class".

Labour MP Tony Perkins condemned the poster as "patronising". In short, it was criticism all round.

Presumably Mr Shapps did not run the poster under the nose of the Conservatives chief strategist Lynton Crosby.

Mr Shapps has only tweeted once since, with a follow-up poster ridiculing Ed Miliband's response. It had fewer retweets but was less controversial.