Twitter storm minister visits Ramsbottom to meet traders and fend off criticism

Bury Times: Bury North MP David Nuttall, Cllr Robert Hodkinson and Ann Hodkinson with Grant Shapps MP during the visit Bury North MP David Nuttall, Cllr Robert Hodkinson and Ann Hodkinson with Grant Shapps MP during the visit

GOVERNMENT minister Grant Shapps became embroiled in a Twitter stormand labelled as “out of touch” before a visit to Ramsbottom.

Mr Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, was in Ramsbottom last Thursday to meet newly elected Ramsbottom councillor Robert Hodkinson at his shop, Murrays Family Outfitters, in Bridge Street, together with Bury North MP David Nuttall, Bury Tory leader Cllr Iain Gartside and Ramsbottom Cllr Ian Bevan.

Before the visit, Mr Shapps used his Twitter account to upload a poster which celebrated the cuts in beer and bingo tax announced in last Wednesday’s budget.

However, the tweet has been labelled as “patronising”, and has led to a number of parodies being created, with the hashtag #torybingo trending on Twitter.

Mr Shapps’s tweet read: “#budget2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.”

The penny off a pint of beer and the cut in bingo duty from 20 per cent to 10 per cent 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.

Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, said: “This patronising advert shows again how out of touch David Cameron’s government is.

“The Tory mask has slipped and revealed a party stuck in the past and only comfortable standing up for the privileged few.”

Mr Shapps responded to criticism saying: “If you happen to be someone who is employed in the bingo industry, to know that the tax is going to be halved and there is a future for your industry it means a real job for you and security for your family. And I make no apology for a budget which takes a penny off beer. It is a good budget and it helps everyone.”

The Bury Times previously reported on a knitting campaign providing hats to troops in Afghanistan set up by Conservatives in Mr Shapps’s constituency in Hertfordshire. It was criticised by former Ramsbottom councillor Joanne Columbine who resigned shortly after due to “family reasons”. Cllr Hodkinson replaced her following a by-election.

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