Theresa May’s tea-at-the-Ritz ‘simples’ bet is another kick in the face for Britain

Theresa May and Ritz tea
Fréa Lockley

At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 26 February, Theresa May told SNP’s Ian Blackford that: “He should vote for a deal – simples”, using a well-known advertising catchphrase. But it turns out she did this so her aide could win a bet. The prize was tea at the Ritz. It’s yet another Tory kick in the face.


On 2 March, the Mail on Sunday reported that:

Seema Kennedy, Mrs May’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, had a wager with Tory MP Simon Hoare that she could get her boss to say the word [simples]. Tea at The Ritz costs £58 – or £77 with a glass of bubbly.

Not surprisingly, this news has caused shock and outrage. With less than a month to go, and no Brexit deal on the table, May’s original line left many MPs “stunned”:

But now, we know she did this for a bet. So it really does show just how totally out of touch May and her government truly are.

Out of touch

For a start, it poses a very serious question about whether this bet breaches parliamentary procedure:

And as the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon pointed out, the timing of their “jolly japes” is also deeply concerning:

But just as importantly, the price of a champagne tea at the Ritz is more than 1.36 million people living on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) have to survive on for an entire week.

Overall, this bet shows absolutely no awareness of the millions of people struggling under austerity, the soaring foodbank use, or the UK’s rising homelessness crisis:

Twisted timing

The timing of this bet truly does lift the lid on Conservative policy. Because it came in the same week that data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that inequality in the UK is rising. As the Big Issue reported, “the gap between the richest and the poorest widened”, and “the benefits freeze is to blame”. The report found that:

The richest fifth of the population saw average income increase by 4.7 per cent for the financial year ending in 2018 while it contracted by 1.6 per cent for the poorest.

Winning tea at the Ritz also came in a week when a separate ONS report found that more homeless people died in deprived areas. In fact, the rate is “nine times higher in poor areas than rich areas”.

And yet Kennedy, Hoare and May got involved in a bet for tea at the Ritz. As well as showing that they don’t have a clue, this reveals just how twisted and cruel this government truly is.

Featured images via Fot. P. Tracz Kancelaria Premiera/Wikimedia and finedining indian/Flickr

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us