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Top Tory Tom Tugendhat performs U-turn after tripping up over Tayto tweet

Minister of State Tom Tugendhat referred to Tayto preferences as “an ecumenical matter”.

UK MINISTER OF State for Security Tom Tugendhat performed a social media U-turn today when challenged over his choice of Tayto. 

Tugendhat, who challenged for leadership of the Tory party last year during the contest that was eventually won by former Prime Minister Liz Truss, had yesterday tweeted “It’s Tayto Time” alongside a bag of Republic of Ireland Tayto Cheese & Onion.

The MP for Tonbridge and Malling was then engaged by UUP Leader Doug Beattie, who replied by saying “Shots fired Tom….. only one Tayto & they’re made in Tandragee,” referring to the Armagh headquarters where the Northern Irish version of Tayto are made. 

Tugendhat followed up with a second tweet that showed he had purchased a second bag of Tayto – this time of the Northern variety – accompanied by the caption “When it comes to Tayto, that would be an ecumenical matter,” an allusion to Channel 4 comedy Father Ted.

Tayto, the crisp manufacturer founded by Joe Murphy in May 1954, is a separate entity to Tayto Limited, the company which operates in Northern Ireland. Founded by the Hutchinson family in 1956, the Northern Ireland iteration of the iconic crisp snack licensed both the name and recipe from the original. 

The Irish brand is currently owned by German food company Intersnack, while Tayto Limited is still owned by the Hutchinson family and based in Armagh.

Both brands of Tayto are marketed by an anthropomorphic potato mascot named Mr Tayto, though the two differ noticeably in style. The Republic of Ireland Mr Tayto wears a red suit, a black hat and yellow pinstripe pants, whereas his Northern counterpart wears an entirely red suit and hat. There is also a marked difference in the facial features of the Northern Mr Tayto, who possesses a larger, rounder jaw, and tends to smile with his mouth open, while Mr Tayto (Republic) is more stoic in demeanour. Both creatures typically wear a blue tie.

It is not the first time that Tayto has been (somewhat) politicised in recent years. Boris Johnson, when campaigning ahead of the UK’s 2019 general election, visited “Tayto Castle” in Tandagree and said he had eaten “a big sack of them” at 10 Downing St. 

While southern Tayto is nicknamed “free stayto” by some, debate around the products is typically limited to questions over which is the better quality crisp, and not intertwined with the broader geopolitical divisions in Ireland.

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