Harold MacMillan said the first rule of politics is never to invade Afghanistan, but the second surely must be to always remember where you are.
Unfortunately for Rishi Sunak, that seemingly simple detail appeared to pass him by yesterday, October 28, when the Chancellor was caught on camera praising the quality of the ‘world famous Burnley market’… while on a visit to Bury.
In a textbook example of a political gaffe Sunak not once, not twice but three times appeared to confuse the historic Bury market with another town near Manchester beginning with B, telling BBC Breakfast, ‘We’re here in Burnley but if you are growing up in a village in the South West or even on the South Coast, people want to feel opportunity is there for them, wherever they happen to be.’
‘I put it down to two things. One is having pride in the place you call home and a lot of what we announced yesterday, the levelling-up fund, bids like Burnley market – world famous Burnley market – benefiting from £20m of investment.’
Following the incident, a Treasury spokesperson put the error down to a ‘slip of the tongue’, but in the context of a Conservative government that has often been accused of neglecting northern communities despite it’s commitments to building a ‘northern powerhouse’, it’s provided the perfect opportunity for Sunak’s critics to score some points.
‘It’s nice to know he’s very familiar with the north,’ Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said, adding to BBC Radio Manchester that the Chancellor ‘probably needs to spend a bit more time here’.
‘I am all in favour of anything that gets Burnley on the map but my God … what does it say about
[Sunak’s] interest in/knowledge of the region (not to mention how he doesn’t read his briefs) that he can make a mistake like this,’ former Labour director of communications Alastair Campbell tweeted.
‘A good day to bury bad news. Sorry, Burnley bad news,’ one Labour MP joked.
Sunak’s mistake came as he toured the country to promote new measures introduced to support small businesses as part of the Autumn Budget.
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