Using Rishi Sunak’s face to sell cheap booze isn’t the first time the pub chain has let slip its rightwing politics
Wetherspoon pubs occupy a strange place in British culture. For many, the chain represents a kind of egalitarian ideal – a communal boozing atmosphere unified by £3.99 pints and £1.60 coffees. A place where middle-class, leftwing art students can brush shoulders (pre-pandemic) with elderly alcoholics, united in their love of the budget boozer. The pub chain’s cheap point of entry makes it a unifying place in otherwise divided times: a place of legend (“Have you heard about the carpets? No two are the same”), of cheap kormas and pinot grigio.
But the corporate entity JD Wetherspoon Plc, headed by the eccentric, Vote Leave-donating millionaire Tim Martin is a whole other beast. Founded in 1979, Wetherspoon has become the largest pub chain in the UK, counting some 900 pubs and hotels. At a time when the hospitality industry struggles on tight margins and pubs have been experiencing mass closures, albeit at a slowing rate, the chain turned a pre-tax profit of £102.5m in 2019 (its operating profits in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, will likely be far lower).