Monday 13 June 2022

Let them eat cake


They say that ‘we are what we eat’, but it’s not at all clear what that makes the UK government, which is today publishing its so-called food strategy for England, a document extensively leaked last week. From that and other recent statements by Johnson and his ministers, we now know that the government wants to:

·        Increase the consumption of venison

·        Abolish import tariffs on foods such as caviar

·        Have champagne put into pint bottles and distributed door to door using electric vehicles, or wine floats as they are to be called

·        Abandon previous animal welfare based plans to ban the import of foie gras

·        Distribute fresh grouse to food banks

The surprising thing is not that one of those is a lie (I should probably be careful about giving them ideas, especially with only a few weeks to go before the ‘glorious twelfth’, but I made up the bit about grouse), but that the rest are all true, or based on truth. The strategy does indeed talk about responsibly sourced wild venison, and they are truly considering abandoning previous plans to ban the import of foie gras. Although Johnson didn’t specifically refer to caviar last week, he did say that food such as olives and bananas, of which the UK produces little or none, should not be subject to tariffs; there is no obvious reason why the same argument would not apply to caviar.  The government do indeed want the French to put their champagne into pint bottles (why the French – the originators of the metric system – would want to do such a thing is one of life’s great unanswered questions), although there are, sadly, no plans as yet for doorstep deliveries – I suspect that Rees-Mogg obstructed that one in cabinet because he thinks it should actually be dished out using pint-size ladles from a big vat on the back of a horse-drawn cart: none of this new-fangled electric technology for Jake.

At a time when food prices are a major issue for struggling families, and when there is an obesity epidemic, the government’s approach displays how far removed from the real world most of its members are. Bottle sizes for champagne, the availability of foie gras, and how to cook venison – these are not exactly issues which the average family confronts on a daily basis. They do tell us, however, something about the current government’s priorities. And it isn’t good.

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