Use of food banks has soared since the pandemic began (Photo: SSAFA via PA Media)
A Tory council leader has faced intense online backlash after he was pictured smiling and laughing while ceremoniously opening a food bank.
Jeremy Kite, the borough council leader for Dartford, was seen in Facebook photos attending the official opening of the borough’s new food bank, cutting a ribbon amid a smiling crowd.
As the cost of living crisis worsens, and millions admit to skipping meals just to pay the bills, the photos have been accused of being completely tone deaf.
The backlash even crept over to LBC radio station, where presenter James O’Brien began to criticise the photo when Kite actually called in on Wednesday morning.
He explained: “I love my town, I love the people in it, I’m trying to do the right thing.
“We were invited yesterday to open - it’s not actually a brand new food bank, it’s a new location where there’s been a lot of work put into it by the volunteers and others. There was actually a bit of a joke just before the ribbon was cut and photographs will tell a snapshot of the moment.”
The joke was allegedly about the countdown. Kite also said the opening ceremony was “thrown by the people who organise and volunteer” in the food bank, who also wanted to put the ribbon in place to honour the occasion.
As O’Brien asked Kite “what the hell” he was thinking, the council leader said as a guest it would have been a “mistake” to turn down the organisers’ photo offer.
The pictures were then deleted from the Mayor of Dartford’s Facebook page following the outcry, but reposted a few hours later with a caption explaining: “There have been a number of comments this morning suggesting that the cutting of a ribbon was inappropriate in those circumstances.
“This aspect of the visit was arranged by the organisers and volunteers and took place at their request.
The council representatives were pleased to meet so many volunteers, organisers and clients of the food bank and wish it well in its new home.”
The comments were limited to the owner of the page, but there were 88 reactions or either the angry or sad face emojis.
Here’s a roundup of some of the most furious responses on Twitter:
Can't quite put my finger on it but isn't there something a bit amiss in these joyful pictures of the Mayor of Dartford.... opening a food bank pic.twitter.com/l2QgMq8bQO
— Otto English (@Otto_English) May 11, 2022
No wonder the Tory Leader and Tory Mayor of Dartford are smiling at the opening of a new food bank. The exponential growth in food banks since we came to power in 2010 is one of our proudest achievements. pic.twitter.com/25NpHLav0K
— Parody Boris (@Parody_PM) May 11, 2022
What the actual fuck?? pic.twitter.com/XWsKQvbKum
— Scouse Socialista 💖 (@ScouseSocialis2) May 11, 2022
Just listened to Dartford #Tory leader Jeremy Kite (blue tie) on @mrjamesob trying to defend using an opening of a Foodbank as a photo-op. Utterly clueless that anyone thinks a Foodbank is a matter to celebrate but that sums up #ToryBritain. Those pictures speak for themselves.
— Paul Martin (@DeepingRed) May 11, 2022
Tory Jeremy Kite and Dartford Mayor, both wearing gold and laughing whilst cutting a ribbon at a food bank.
Tories use their failures as photo ops because they’re proud of this, but those that need food banks are ashamed and rationing electricity.
Fuck the lot of them. pic.twitter.com/4SsJqo387K
— Supertanskiii (@supertanskiii) May 11, 2022
The Tory leader of Dartford cutting the ribbon on another foodbank.
Let that sink in.
Cutting a ribbon.
Celebrating the opening of a foodbank.
They should hang their heads in shame that people rely on foodbanks in 21st Century Conservative Britain.
It is a disgrace. pic.twitter.com/k6Z4G4Qnl0
— Sir Jon Harvey of Angryshire. (@jonharvey) May 11, 2022
— Lady Mavis (@MavisMoggie) May 11, 2022
The Conservative Mayor and Conservative Council Leader of Dartford cutting the ribbon of a foodbank. But actually. In real-life. Not satire. Britain, 2022. pic.twitter.com/rILr5k0gki
— Histry in Pictures (@Histreepix) May 11, 2022
Latest video of Tory politicians at the opening of a foodbank in Dartford. pic.twitter.com/LxK1c8w9Qc
— The Socialist Party (@OfficialSPGB) May 11, 2022
— ordinary person 💙 (@DearOhDear2) May 11, 2022
If you thought the Dartford Tories' glee at the grand opening of a new foodbank was bad, check out the photo of them loading up on the buffet afterwards 😳 https://t.co/IehypyvRdx
— Aisha Malik-Smith (@avocadamn) May 11, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.