I really try to catch myself if I start indulging in a bit of schadenfraude because, like sarcasm, it’s a largely distasteful practice. The last day or so then has been a real effort of will for me, as we have been bombarded with images of MPs eating hot pasties, sausage rolls and pies, talking about hot pasties, sausages rolls and pies and visiting purveyors of same.
I am not sure when I cracked the most. Perhaps it was when George Gideon Osborne was asked in a Select Committee when he had last entered the hallowed portals of a Greggs, or whether it was when Newsnight devoted time to the debate, or indeed was it when our own, dear pasty-faced, spam-headed PM was pictured (with crumbs down his front) eating some pastry product in 2010, albeit not the hot pasty he mendaciously claimed he had once purchased at Leeds station.
When a spokesperson for Downing Street is forced to clarify the Prime Minister’s pie-purchasing habits, then we can only surmise that the world is indeed an absurd place, in all the classifications of the word. When our much-vaunted democracy is employed by the government of the day to place piddling taxes on hot baked products, to bring a high street bakery in line with a global industry such as McDonalds, what else can you think but hmmmmm.
The Conservative Party carry on like a bunch of repressed Billy Bunters at heart, given the way they perpetually get themselves into trouble over their high-handed attitude to the foodstuffs of the rest of us. Who can forget John Gummer force-feeding his daughter a burger at the height of the mad cow outbreak, or Edwina Currie who, despite trying to laugh off Pastygate this morning on the radio – hahaha, has a public persona that will always be synonymous with salmonella in eggs. The only food-related hoo haa I can recall in the Labour Party was when Blair and Brown dined at Granita. It’s hardly the same thing.
And then there is the language of the Conservatives, mentioned in the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. Whilst the Labour contingent Eds Miliband and Balls hot-footed it down to Greggs to by a bag of sausage rolls, Francis Maude from the Conservatives was suggesting we fill up our jerrycans before we had supper in our kitchen thus painting a vivid picture of a landed gentry snacking on quails eggs and still holding a grudge against the *Germans.
To be honest, I am not in shock about that which their language purportedly reveals, most of us had worked it out anyway without an analysis of the Cabinet’s lexicon. They are what they are, the Conservatives. Yes, the big sticky clue is in the name. To conserve means to protect from loss or harm, to use carefully or sparingly, to avoid waste. It also means to make jam, chutney and pickles. Of course our Prime Minister shouldn’t bother to tell us whether he eats a hot pastry product, and he shouldn’t really need to avuncularly advise us to ‘top-up’ our cars in the face of a fuel tanker drivers’ strike. But the thing is the Conservatives just can’t help it, it’s in their DNA to protect us nitwitted ones from harm, to avoid us wasting their jam and petrol. As much as they want to shrink the state locally, when it comes to their own fiddling at a national level with the very fabric of our lives, down to what we might want to eat for lunch, or at a football game; or telling us when we should be prepared for things we could easily deduce for ourselves, well they just can’t help themselves.
And finally, aside from the nannying and the language, my more serious point is: how has it come to this? The absurdity of last week’s tinkering with the tax system resulting in VAT on hot pies on one hand, whilst with the other they hand back money to millionaires. And, we pay them to do it to us.
*Wehrmachtskanister is the German word for their invention that we call the jerrycan – literally translated as a canister that makes a dam or a weir. Who of us has one, or indeed the garage to put it in? My linguistic objection m’lud is: what would we be calling it in the Conservative Party today if it had been invented in Italy or Spain or anywhere else for which we could coin a derogatory nationalistic term as a prefix?