12 Jun Mixing Britons’ food with politics invariably leaves a bad taste | Pen Vogler
The Brexit sausage war is nothing new: it follows an inglorious lineage that stretches all the way back to Hogarth’s Gin Lane
It’s summer at last! Time to gather a few neighbours round, start a fire, and throw another sausage war on to the flames. This one is about the complicated triangulation between the EU, Northern Ireland and Westminster over frictionless trade. Still awake? Let’s put it in terms “the public” can understand and, as former Brexit chief negotiator David Frost did, thunder about the right of “the shopper in Strabane” to get their favourite sausages or chicken nuggets. In fact, from Hogarth’s Gin Lane, right through to the pasty tax, politicians have scored political points around food, as a distraction from more important matters, such as whether children get fed.
If you were of telly-watching age in 1984, there might be a familiar whiff to Frost’s words. In Yes, Minister the not overly competent but endlessly fortunate minister, Jim Hacker, grappled with a rumoured proposal from Brussels to have the British sausage renamed the “emulsified high-fat offal tube”. Westminster is traditionally reluctant to get involved in our personal relationship with our shopping baskets and arteries. It still feels the pain of burnt fingers from the “hot pasty tax”; or Edwina Currie’s throwaway 1988 remark about the prevalence of salmonella in British egg production, which crashed consumer confidence overnight (it was reported that the industry had to slaughter four million hens). The knotty issues around processed meat products are delegated to food and health campaigners who would like Britons to eat a lot fewer, for the sake of our health, our waistlines and the welfare of the animals who end up in them.