Lewes garden centre owner threatened for ‘Tory tax’ blackboard

Matt Woodruff with the 'Tory tax' sign
Matt Woodruff with the 'Tory tax' sign

A garden centre owner was threatened with violence after he introduced a ‘Tory tax’ on shoppers who voted Conservative in the general election.

Matt Woodruff, the owner of Woodruffs Yard, Lewes, put a sign outside the centre asking Conservative voters to ‘identify themselves’, as they would be charged ten per cent extra.

The 'Tory tax' sign at Woodruffs Yard, Lewes

The 'Tory tax' sign at Woodruffs Yard, Lewes

“I’m sure, as someone who has opted to support a party of elitist, self-serving types, that you understand that this is one of the many ‘tough’ decisions I need to make to ‘balance the books’,” the sign says.

UKIP voters are asked to ‘shop elsewhere’.

A picture of the board has gone viral, leading to extreme responses.

“It’s my right to protest, but I’ve sure got flack for it. It’s supposed to be humorous, for people to enjoy it,” Matt said.

“There have been swear words, I’ve been threatened that they’ll come down here, beat me up, trash the shop. They’ve tracked my daughter down at university.

“I’ve had to unplug my phone at home, which will have to go on for at least a month.”

Matt was ‘despondent’ about election results locally and nationally, as Conservatives gained a majority and Norman Baker lost his Lewes seat to Maria Caulfield.

“At first I just couldn’t believe it, I felt upset and angry,” Matt said.

“It felt like everybody in the town was in mourning. The idea of the sign is to poke fun at the Tories, it’s a parody of them. The response is ridiculous.”

Matt pointed out that as the national turnout of voters was 66 per cent, 37 per cent of which voted Conservative, the majority of people did not vote for the winning party.

He continued: “There needs to be a way for people to come together and voice our opinions, so many people are unhappy, something absolutely has to change.

“There needs to be a response from the fragmented left, a powerful message.”

Woodruffs Yard has been supported through the abuse.

Matt was concerned the damage the sign could have on his business, but footfall had picked up.

On Tuesday Woodruffs Yard was full of shoppers with admiration for Matt.

Kit Hardy, from Lewes, said: “I think he’s wonderful, I’m here to buy some plants, I don’t even need plants!

“I saw the board on Facebook and just thought it was great.”

Sophie Castle set up Facebook group Blackboard Man - Support Woodruffs Yard after she found another group encouraging shoppers to boycott the garden centre.

“I’m amazed that in less than 24 hours this page has had 1300 likes and there are more coming in all the time,” she said.

“There’s incredible support for Matt’s blackboard message and its gentle humour.”

Support has been ‘overwhelming, humbling’, with thousands of emails coming in, some from Japan, France, Australia, America, Italy, Germany and Russia.