Sunday 18 March 2018

Eric Pickles exacts salad revenge

George Osborne eating a burger and chips as he puts the finishing touches to the spending review (George Osborne/PA)
George Osborne eating a burger and chips as he puts the finishing touches to the spending review (George Osborne/PA)

Eric Pickles exacted public revenge on George Osborne for jibes about his weight as he joined the public mockery of the Chancellor's ill-judged Twitter picture of a late-night gourmet burger and chips meal.

The portly Communities Secretary - dubbed a "model of lean government" by his Tory colleague on Wednesday for agreeing big cuts to his budget - lampooned the much-mocked picture with his own healthy-eating version.

In a photo carefully staged to mimic Mr Osborne's, he replaced the burger and fries on the Chancellor's desk with a bowl of salad and a packet of carrot sticks at his own - and joked that he too was pictured "putting finishing touches" to a big speech.

Mr Osborne - who has been dogged by controversy over his own post - Tweeted back: "Nice one, Eric."

The humorous exchanges came after Mr Osborne was forced to spend parts of interviews about Wednesday's spending review, which imposed another £11.5 billion of spending cuts, defending his choice of meal.

He posted a picture of himself at his desk with the food, along with cans of Diet Coke and a coffee, at around 10pm on Tuesday with the message: "Putting final touches to the speech" in a bid to show another side of political life to voters. But he was accused by The Sun newspaper of undermining an effort to appear a "man of the people" when it emerged the meal came from upmarket burger chain Byron.

And his explanation that "McDonald's doesn't deliver. I was working late in the office" was rather undermined when it was confirmed that Byron does not deliver either and the meal was in fact collected by staff for him and team members from Waterloo station.

A "Classic" Byron 6oz hamburger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise costs £6.75, with fries an extra £2.95. If cheese is added, the price of the burger rises to £7.95.

Mr Osborne ordered the meal from a Byron branch in Waterloo, more than a mile away from Whitehall, with 10 McDonald's outlets - where burgers start at 99p - closer, the Sun reported.

"The point about Twitter is to try and tell people more about what you're doing every day, and there I am working late on my speech, and I've got a takeaway hamburger, but it puts you on the front page of The Sun. It's an occupational hazard," Mr Osborne said.

Press Association

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