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Attempts to inject some levity into the Conservative leadership contest on social media fell flat on Wednesday when a photograph tweeted of the 1922 Committee led to criticism that it was sexist and outdated.

With the announcement of the two remaining candidates for the UK prime minister role about to be announced (at 4pm this Wednesday) or at “tea time” as it was described, the photograph showed members of the committee representing Tory backbenchers posing with teacups in hand and a teapot.

But some observers were quick to condemn the optics, pointing out that of the six committee members posing the only female present was the one pouring the tea.

The five men, including the 1922 committee chair, Sir Graham Brady, grinned broadly as the joint vice-chair, Nusrat Ghani, obliged by filling up their cups.

One response to the picture remarked: “There are five men and one woman in this picture and the woman is the one pouring the tea. Not a good look…”

Another wrote: “A bit revealing the only woman in the photo is serving tea to all the men.”

“Why is the woman holding the teapot? Can’t one of the men hold it? Or is that too demeaning for Tory men?” commented another.

One replied: “So, your vice-chair, the only woman (of colour) in the pic, is the one you chose to serve tea to the men. Well done.”

Someone made the point: “Oh, I get it now! It’s called the 1922 committee because they act as if it were still 1922!” While another suggested: “Don’t forget to post another picture later showing her washing up.”

The tweet followed another photograph posted this week punning on the heatwave and the heating-up of the voting process – which showed the committee room full of fans.

Tea strain: MPs’ stab at being funny gets steeped in ridicule

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