When UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak posted a picture of him brewing tea for his team members in the treasury department, little did he know that it would lead to a social media storm.
The new chancellor of the exchequer, who is working on his first budget to be tabled in two weeks' time, is expected to unveil a major infrastructure boost for the northern England region of Yorkshire -- which he also represents as MP of Richmond.
In a Twitter post last Friday, the 39-year-old son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy is seen holding a bag of Yorkshire Tea along with the message: ‘Quick Budget prep break making tea for the team. Nothing like a good Yorkshire brew.’
It attracted a host of trolls and negative reactions, largely directed against the ruling Conservative Party but also targeted at Yorkshire Tea -- one of the UK's oldest tea brands.
Many announced a boycott of the brand as a result of the perceived Tory endorsement, forcing Yorkshire Tea to issue a Twitter statement to stress that the post had nothing to do with the company and that “people of all political stripes like our brew”.
However, the “storm in a tea cup”, as it eventually became known, did not die down, with Yorkshire Tea forced to issue a plea of kindness on Monday after what it said was a “rough weekend” with people determined to drag the company into a “political mudfight” despite having nothing to do with the chancellor's tweet.
In its latest post, Yorkshire Tea said: “Speaking directly now, as the person who's been answering these tweets, I know it could have been much worse. It's easier to be on the receiving end of this as a brand than as an individual. 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.”
Sunak, the UK's first Indian-origin politician to hold the country's high office of chancellor, will table his first budget in the UK parliament on March 11.
According to reports, it will involve plans to move a significant number of the UK treasury department's 1,500 London-based posts to a so-called “economic decision-making campus” in the north as part of investment plans for the region, credited with handing the Prime Minister Boris Johnson led Tories their strong majority in the December 2019 general election.