Budget 2014: Bingo advert sparks online outcry

The offending ad, as posted by Conservative MP Grant Shapps. Picture: Contributed
The offending ad, as posted by Conservative MP Grant Shapps. Picture: Contributed
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CHANCELLOR George Osborne has dismissed a row over a “patronising” Tory advert highlighting Budget measures to cut bingo hall tax and beer prices.

Osborne accused Labour of whipping up controversy because they had nothing else to say about the financial package - but declined to say whether he approved of the ad.

Mr Osborne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a campaign that has really been got up by the Labour Party who decimated the Bingo industry and put alcohol taxes up and up such that many thousands of people lost their jobs in the pub industry.

“So if they want to go on talking about what they did for Bingo and the pub industry, they can be my guest.”

Mocked on Twitter

The image - which claimed the changes would “help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy” - was unveiled by Conservative chairman Grant Shapps on his Twitter feed last night.

But it was widely mocked on the social network as stereotyping the working class, while Liberal Democrat Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander described it as “extraordinary”.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme 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 a beer tax. What nonsense that is.”

A senior Conservative Party source said there was no question of the image being pulled, because it was not part of a campaign.

But they added: “We are quite proud of those tax cuts... We stand by what was said in that advert.”

Mr Osborne 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.”

Mr Osborne also insisted he had played Bingo in the past.

Minor measures

The penny off a pint of beer and the halving of Bingo duty to 10% were minor measures in a Budget dominated by help for pensioners and savers.

But Mr Shapps attempted to give them greater exposure, encouraging people to “spread the word” on Twitter - leading to a series of messages ridiculing the advert.

Mr Alexander said it was “rather patronising” and “demeans some quite sensible things” in the Budget.

“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,” he told BBC 2’s Newsnight programme.

“This language, well that’s for Grant Shapps to justify.”

Twitter was awash with spoof versions, which included whippets, references to healthcare cuts and legal aid.

The hashtag #torybingo was trending with suggestions for number calling including “Eton’s Den number 10” and “Bullingdon mates 88”.


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