Welcome to the latest edition of This Week on Twitter for Westminster HUB where we take a look at the week’s biggest political news and controversies through the eyes of Twitter. This week with Parliament in a short recess Theresa May took the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia in order to drum up potential trade for post-Brexit Britain. She was faced with questions on multiple subjects while there including the close relationship with Saudi Arabia despite their questionable human rights stances and the recent controversial events in Yemen.
The Prime Minister also found time during her trip to intervene in a row over chocolate Easter eggs. Cadbury stood accused of dropping the word Easter from their Easter egg promotions with the National Trust which angered prominent priests in the Church of England. The discussion snowballed and the Prime Minister decided to add her opinion and weight to the argument. Jeremy Corbyn also launched the Labour Party’s council elections campaign with a speech and a brand new policy on school meals with less than a month before Britain goes to the polls once again.
Saudi Arabia and Cadbury’s Easter Eggs
With Parliament taking a short break, Theresa May flew to Jordan then to Saudi Arabia for a three day break to discuss potential trade links amongst other international issues. The Prime Minister was immediately faced with questions on the UK’s close relationship with a country, Sauid Arabia, that has such a chequered history with human rights, women’s rights and potential war crimes in Yemen.
Mrs May said that she hoped to show Saudi Arabia’s leaders of the role that women can play and show herself as an example and a role model to women in the country. The country is well known for its poor record in equality and women’s rights which has long been an issue with those disapproving of the close relationship between the two countries.
Another slightly controversial point during Theresa May’s trip to Saudi Arabia was the fact that she chose not to wear a headscarf, expected of most women and female visitors in to the country. Mrs May’s choice of clothing was noted as soon as she stepped off the flight.
During the Prime Minister’s stay in Saudi Arabia news emerged from the Church of England who stated they were unhappy with Cadbury for not including the word Easter in an Easter egg hunt promotion with the National Trust. The Church accused Cadbury of, “Airbrushing faith from Easter,” while Cadbury stated they wanted to, “Appeal to people of all faiths and none.” This news caused a lot of discussion and debate on social media as it broke on Tuesday, some were unhappy that there seemed to be little mention of Easter on the Cadbury Easter eggs.
Meanwhile others did some research themselves and discovered that although the egg hunt itself no longer featured the word Easter, the website and promotional materials featured Easter heavily.
The story quickly became an even bigger issue when politicians started giving their opinions on the news. The story eventually reached Saudi Arabia where Theresa May felt inclined to give her opinion on the issue suggesting that Cadbury’s were wrong to remove the word Easter from their egg hunt at National Trust properties.
Theresa May’s intervention in this issue also spawned jokes and comparisons with her apparent inability to condemn or intervene on Saudi Arabia’s controversies with a large number of political commentators making humorous comparisons between the two issues.
Jeremy Corbyn was also unimpressed with Cadbury as he commented on the story during Labour’s local election campaign launch. The Labour leader said the story upsets him as it was an example of the commercialisation of religious events.
Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, took a much more light-hearted view on the issue as he released a comment on the issue laden with egg-based puns. The Liberal Democrats also took the opportunity to suggest Cadbury could send them some samples of chocolate eggs.
Labour Launch Local Election Campaign
Also on Tuesday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his party’s campaign for the local elections taking place across the country on May 4th. The speech saw Mr Corbyn attempting to put focus on what he labelled as the ‘real issues’ as he gave a heartfelt talk about homeless, poverty and cuts. On Thursday Corbyn backed this rhetoric with an actual policy idea as Labour announced they would tax private schools VAT to fund universal free school meals for all primary school pupils across the UK. On first hearing, the policy had large scale appeal to many on social media including many who had previously criticised Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the party.
After closer inspection the policy appeared to be slightly more flawed than first thought. Although a large majority agreed with the idea of scrapping the charitable status and taxing private schools, it was the use of the funds that would be generated that received the criticism. Editor of Schools Week magazine, Laura McInerney, was vocal in her opinion that the funds raised would be better spent in half term meals for poorer children who might struggle for good meals outside of school or simply being put back in to the schools system which is severely underfunded currently.
It appeared that this criticism was shared by former Ofsted chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who during an interview with BBC Radio 4 gave the policy a 6 out of 10 as he appeared to agree with how the funds were being raised but not with the spending of them.
In the next fortnight Parliament will return from recess and will immediately refocus on Brexit issues with the Repeal Bill starting to be debated and discussed in the chambers. The campaigns will also begin for local council elections with a big focus on Labour and what kind of vote they are able to gain with gloomy forecasts for the results already.
Follow Backbench and Westminster Hub on Twitter for the latest political news and opinions. The Week on Twitter will be back with a roundup of the week’s biggest political headlines soon. To follow any of our editors on Twitter follow this link for all the information you’ll need.