There are thousands of bakeries the UK government could have chosen to star in its latest public information campaign, but the Haxby Bakehouse was probably the only one to produce loaves flour-stencilled with “F*ck Boris” during last year’s general election.
A photograph of its owner, Phil Clayton, dusted with flour and carrying a tray of freshly baked goods appeared in national newspapers on Saturday with the headline “Welcome back to freshly baked bread”, to promote the government’s “enjoy summer safely” campaign.
On Monday evening the government pulled the adverts featuring the baker, acknowledging the photo had been used without his consent.
Clayton, a Labour party member who during the 2017 snap election baked loaves stencilled with the Corbyn slogan “for the many” and sold French boule loaves featuring the word “in” during the 2016 EU referendum, was busy at work on Saturday morning in his bakery in Haxby, near York, when he started to get texts from amused friends about the advert.
“I was a bit worried to start with, I thought: oh shit. But so many people know my political views that people were saying, ‘it’s the funniest thing ever, they’ve been so stupid to use your image for this’,” said Clayton on Monday.
“I laughed along with it for a bit but when it was in the Daily Mail I thought: ‘Oh my God’. Then you ponder on it and you think: ’How come I knew nothing about my image being used for this campaign?’”
Some customers congratulated him for taking part in the campaign; others called him a “turncoat”.
In an interview with the Guardian, he demanded the government withdraw the advert and pay him. “I don’t want them to use it. They’ve taken my image without my consent. I’ll have my modelling fee,” he said.
He contacted the government via Instagram on Sunday, saying: “Finding it quite amusing that HM Government chose to use a picture of me in one of their advertising campaigns. Either someone out there has a great sense of humor or they definitely weren’t ‘staying alert’.”
He subsequently saw the advert pop up on Facebook and in the Irish press.
The photograph was originally taken for a Yorkshire tourism marketing campaign, said Clayton. “We did a photoshoot at the bakery a few years ago and were part of a video too. It was going to be used for Yorkshire tourism, for the Asian market I think. I seem to remember it was about encouraging Chinese tourism in particular … I didn’t quite realise I had signed up to say they could use the pictures however they wanted. I didn’t realise I was handing them over to Boris to use.”
Clayton lambasted the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as “floundering”. He remains furious that Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, never admitted he had broken public trust by driving to Durham to self-isolate. “There has been a real ‘one rule for us, one for everyone else’ mentality,” he said.
The Haxby Bakehouse lost about 80% of trade during lockdown, largely through the collapse of the wholesale business to cafes and restaurants, as well as the closure of farmers’ markets.
Clayton received a £10,000 government grant and furloughed five workers, baking three days a week instead of five and operating a delivery service.
Despite his criticism of the government, he said he appreciated the financial support, saying: “It was quite funny that a Conservative government has taken on socialist policies.”
A government spokesperson said: “The Enjoy Summer Safely campaign has worked with a number of partners to showcase local businesses from around the UK getting ready to welcome customers back safely to their high streets.
“We recognise that this particular business does not wish to be featured and the image has been removed from the campaign.”