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Britain goes to the polls this Thursday, to mark #GE2017 I’m talking ELECTION CAKE on #r4today on Thursday morning. #foodforthemany

https://www.academia.edu/33356782/The_Changing_Shape_of_Election_Cake

 

The above is a link to a piece of research I undertook last year – during the US Presidential election – when placed on a research fellowship in the idyllic Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware, USA.

It’s all about election cake – a New England cake traditionally baked at election time, a large fruit cake, often boozy, which historically served a civic function in sustaining voters at the polls.

The article includes historic recipes for anyone wishing to bake an election cake to mark the crucial UK election this Thursday – but make sure you have enough people to help you eat it, for the election cakes of yore were enormous.

Britain votes this Thursday in a crucial election and I am delighted to have been asked onto BBC’s flagship radio news show, the Today programme on Radio 4, to chat about election cake on Thursday morning.

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John Lewis Kimmel, Election Day 1815 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1815), Winterthur collection.

If you can’t tune in on Thursday morning at c. 8:50am GMT, the below links to a video I recorded with the Washington Post about the same topic last year.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/lifestyle/food/were-almost-at-election-day-what-america-needs-right-now-is-a-slice-of-delicious-cake/2016/11/05/1fd44622-a2d7-11e6-8864-6f892cad0865_video.html

Everyone loves a bit of cake and I have fond memories of Winterthur librarian Laura Parrish baking a delicious election cake, which we nibbled over tea, quite sure that Donald Trump would never get in. How wrong we were.

I hope that people listen in to Radio 4 this Thursday where they will be sampling the cake in studio: I also hope that the piece inspires people to get out there and vote …

Below are some heritage recipes if you fancy cooking a good ol’ election cake (all courtesy and copyright of Winterthur Museum, DE, USA):

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Post-Brexit, where’s our head of state to provide leadership amongst the chaos and anxiety???

When historians come to write the history of Britain’s historic EU exit they will struggle to convey the mood of despondency that has taken over the country.

I felt this the minute I stepped off a plane from New York in Manchester on Monday morning. It is tangible. There is a mood of anxiety, disquiet, and anger but most of all there is a feeling of dejection.

Brexit has thrown the UK into constitutional turmoil. Tension is rising and there are fears of further violent confrontations on the streets. Racism and xenophobia are undoubtedly on the rise. Little England has won but with Nigel Farage in Brussels and the leadership of the Tory party uncertain even the Little Englanders seem to lack a figurehead and are instead turning on immigrant communities.

While there is tension, though, there’s this overwhelming listlessness.

This stems from the fact that politically we are left with a real mess. David Cameron, who has foolishly thrown away his prime ministership by calling this utterly unnecessary referendum, is redundant. His party are tearing themselves apart. As I write this, the Labour opposition is in disarray too with Jeremy Corbyn losing a no-confidence motion by 172 to 40 votes. Meanwhile the economy is at risk and people are seeking answers about what happens next.

In time of uncertainty leadership is needed

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Brexit, it’s happened now. But it’s the mood of dejection and the sense of rudderlessness which is now the big problem. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, has rightly condemned the leadership vacuum in Westminster. In this mood of dejection, political leadership is badly needed.

And this ties into the bigger constitutional questions now being raised by the Brexit vote.

The overwhelming point, constitutionally, is that we have no effective head of state who can provide a voice of leadership at times of crisis. We need a leader elected by the people, of the people, who can provide stability and reassurance in this time of confusion and anxiety.

Where is our President to guide us through this?

Instead of a President, elected by popular vote, who can appear across the media to appeal for calm and to reassure the populace, have Elizabeth Windsor.

The Queen is supposed to be ‘above politics’. Since the Scottish referendum, as she hits 90, she has increasingly let the mask slip on the nonsensical notion of her being above politics, with reports of her remarks on sensitive issues leaked by the press. And when it comes down to it, of course she’s not above politics – the very idea that the Queen, in her weekly meeting with the PM, discusses the racing form or the weather is a joke.

But the problem is this: she must be seen to be above it all, effectively gagged from intervening.

This is just one of the paradoxes about a hereditary head of state – because she is unelected and because of the history books displaying what can happen to an overly political monarch, the Queen must keep her mouth shut on political issues.

But at the same time, she is supposed to be a unifying force. The head of state should be the first to step forward at a time of crisis like this – to smooth the unease, to provide political leadership that is not partisan but in the interests of the people. To be a force for stability and reassurance in testing times.

No Constitutional Clarity

We have none of this.

The British people currently have no clear leadership and no clarity about how the constitution should now work.  We need a written constitution that is clear and we need a head of state who can provide national leadership during times of great uncertainty like this.

The far-reaching consequences of Brexit may deliver changes I would welcome – an independent Scotland, a united Ireland. But in the interim we need a head of state with leadership, political nous and clarity providing calm.

This speaks to the fact that in the constitutional shake-up provided by Brexit we now need real change that puts real power in the hands of the people and which provides the means to weather political storms.

The Queen and the Windsor family are both unable and unwilling to offer leadership during a time of unprecedented turmoil.  Instead of a monarch motivated to protect her own position we need an accountable head of state who can speak to the nation and help guide us through the turmoil.

If Brexit delivers one positive thing in the long-term, let’s hope it might be this.

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Anthemgate and all that

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“It’s a disgrace for Jeremy Corbyn not to sing the national anthem”

“Corbyn was a disgrace! Not just for not singing but for turning up so shabbily dressed”

“Shame on you Corbyn for not honouring our Queen. Disgrace.”

DISGRACE  (no, not the book by J.M. Coetzee)

Yes, that professional disgrace Jeremy Corbyn has done it again! The Labour leader’s decision not to sing God Save the Queen at a remembrance service has elicited ire from some quarters. The selection of tweets above, reacting to Corbyn’s decision to remain true to his republican principles, illustrate how standing in respectful silence can really get up some people’s noses.

ABSOLUTE DISGRACEY DISGRACEFULNESS

For those offended, the argument goes a little like this: “How dare Jeremy Corbyn refuse to sing a song about a deity he doesn’t believe in bestowing favours on an unelected head of state he wants to get rid of?”

But who are these people for whom a MASSIVE issue like this justifiably overshadows other less worthy crumbs of news such as the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War?

Well, believe it or not, the majority of Corbyn’s detractors over ‘Anthemgate’ are not Tory politicians or right wing press figures. Neither are the majority of his detractors disgruntled members of his own party. And neither are they white van men, members of the armed forces, football hooligans, gong-chasing celebs, or even high profile members of what might loosely be termed ‘the establishment’.

No, a cursory trawl through social media will demonstrate that those who Corbyn really offended were people whose hobbies are likely to include cross-stitch and flower arranging. Think Hyacinth Bouquet from the old sitcom ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. That’s it, you’ve got it, suburban snobs or – as I’ll call them from hereon in – church fete fascists.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SPECIES

The Church Fete Fascist (CFF) is a curious breed of nimby. Part of several other subfamilies, the CFF has been around a long time in these isles and is widely distributed. Its feeding habits ensure that the CFF will exploit a variety of sources of discontent likely to make the front page of right-wing daily newspapers.

A domesticated creature, a CFF will largely confine itself to its natural habitat but (reminiscent of the legend that King Arthur will resurrect and come to England’s rescue in her hour of need) they are also predatory and ready and waiting to emerge to help if a national scandal of the gravity of Anthemgate arises.

The Church Fete Fascist is so named so because of its intolerance for non-conformism. Not singing a song which contains verses lauding an unelected leader and bashing Scots is one such example which is HIGHLY DISTRESSING to the CFF and can cause erratic behaviour to develop.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

The interesting thing about Anthemgate is that it has revealed how Church Fete Fascism really is in undergoing a resurgence at the moment. This is all to do with the attendant emergence of Brand Britain.

Brand Britain is about cakes and ale, roast beef and cricket on the green. It is all about waving the butcher’s apron around gaily and taking ‘pride’ in the country. Nothing wrong with this in and of itself, of course, but the phenomenon has intensified a lot in recent years.

The electoral defeat of Labour party in 2011 and a succession of national events soon meant that various celebrities soon flocked to Brand Britain, bending the knee and doffing the cap at each and every opportunity: the Jubilee for example. The London Olympics of 2012 intensified the phenomenon. ‘Pride in Britishness’ underwent something of an explosion as the Olympics came to these shores and the country’s athletes performed well.

National coming-together helped dampen those nagging anxieties about the Celtic fringes. Squalid little interruptions to this forward march may have sporadically occurred in the form of independence referendums but these distractions were swiftly papered over by footage of Kate Middleton opening a child’s play area.

A state broadcaster wearied and wounded by threats to abolish the licence fee and competition from online platforms and other channels soon joined in enthusiastically, shedding its tradition left-of-centrism for a craven attitude to royalty. Because Brand Britain, naturally, also conflates the two things. Because, as any schoolkid studying the revised history curriculum or immigrant taking the ‘Britishness’ test knows, Britain and the Windsor family are exactly the same thing. Always have been an always will be. Long to reign over us. Happy and Glorious.

NOT THEIR FAULT

In short, it’s all about the rise of a disturbingly conformist culture attached to national identity.

However, to be fair, it is not the Church Fete Fascists’ fault. There was a time when DEMANDING conformity on things like singing the anthem would have been dismissed by a greater section of British opinion as intolerant and illiberal. A time when the CFF might have looked, well, a little silly.

There was a time, now dimly-remembered, when more people would have pointed out that freedom of expression was what the sacrifice of the Second World War – the occasion which Corbyn, amongst others, was assembling to remember – was supposedly all about.

But that was a time before the media’s obsession with Brand Britain enabled the inexorable ascent of the Church Fete Fascist.

A time before television presenter Kirsty Allsop hit our screens alongside wall-to-wall shows about bunting and baking…

A time before Jeremy Clarkson …

A time before newsreader Fiona Bruce’s face would contort with schoolgirl glee before breaking the good news about the Queen cutting the ribbon at a new garden centre in Rutland …

A time when a studio guest on BBC’s flagship current affairs show Newsnight would have been laughed out of Television Centre for suggesting that Corbyn’s disgrace would have been mitigated had he hummed along and moved his lips occasionally …

But that was before Jeremy Corbyn came along and got himself elected leader of the Labour party. In doing so, he has done his bit to rescue Brand Britain which, despite the media’s efforts, was beginning to look a little frayed around the edges. For those anxieties about the deficit, housing, devolution etc etc can now be funnelled into anti-Corbynism.

As the furore of Anthemgate shows, to quote Dwight D Eisenhower, “the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions”.

The CFFs bagged their quarry alright – an anxious Labour Party hastily announced that Corbyn will now sing God Save the Queen in future.

Natural order of things restored.

Phew. Thank Goodness for that.

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The Adolf Hitler diet: the new foodie trend? #food #diet #fashion #hipster

Whatever about the current excitement over Corbynmania in Britain, there’s no doubt that the hottest political trend over the last few years has been the resurgence of the far right in Europe and beyond.

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Whether the National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands it seems that being a quasi-fascist is firmly back in vogue.

Quite clearly, this political phenomenon has permeated popular culture. Now I can’t pretend to be up with fashion trends, but if I nip out for a loaf of bread or a pint of milk I’m sometimes so shocked at the haircuts and styles emerging from the barbers or clothes shop that I want to run away and join the nearest resistance cell.

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The musician Bryan Ferry once remarked that the Nazis had ‘great style’ and a solitary glance at a pack of stylish young men these days will confirm that fact. Many wouldn’t look out of place in the Third Reich. Take hip London brand ‘Boy’, still favoured by numerous A-listers despite its logo’s unmistakeable similarities to the Nazi Reichsadler.

Then there’s the ascent of the aggressive crew-cut or slicked-back undercut. Although not the exclusive preserve of the right wing, this style is sometimes dubbed the ‘SS cut’ and sported by many a trendy young fella.

But why should this apparent popular homage to national socialism be restricted to the boys? Why should they have all the fun?

When it comes to the girls of today, by contrast, it’s pretty evident that emulating the staid mantra of Kinder, Küche, Kirche associated with Nazism is not cool. At least in the fashion stakes. The wholesome dumpy German housewife look might be indulged in by pretty young things at events like Oktoberfest but outside Bavarian-themed pubs you don’t see it very often as a style choice for the fashion-conscious young woman.

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But don’t let this apparent gender disparity fool you!

We all know that dieting is more popular among women than men. And it’s in the arena of the latest cool diets – assisting you in looking your slender youthful best – that the girls give the boys a run for their money in paying seeming homage to the Nazis.

Let me explain … I refer, of course, to the most ‘with it’ dietary fads of today and their unacknowledged debt to – who else? – Adolf Hitler.

Now, one of the most influential role models for diet-conscious young gals today is ‘Deliciously Ella’ – Ella Woodward – who offers recipes sans wheat, meat and sugar. Heard of her? Like Nigella Lawson, she’s the daughter of a fairly right-leaning politician but just check out her website (http://deliciouslyella.com/) and it’s all peace, love and avocadoes and not a hint of Hitler and his dietary dreams.

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Then there’s Hemsley and Hemsley (http://www.hemsleyandhemsley.com/) Now they are a couple of slender sisters who basically just eat vegetables. Occasionally, ever so occasionally, meat creeps in. But they’re singing from the same hymn sheet as our Ella.

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‘Yeah, OK. I know Hitler was a vegetarian, but what has all this got to do with the Führer?’ I hear you cry. Well, read on …

All these trendy girls are topped by Fully Raw – http://www.fullyraw.com – the creation of Kristina Carrillo-Bucanam, who rid herself of Hyperglycemia at the age of 18 eating nothing but a low fat raw vegan diet consisting solely of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the pinnacle of raw food cool. Of course, Kristina’s recipe ideas are confined to the realm of gazpachos, smoothies and salads. Cooking, she claims, destroys nutrients, “denatures the proteins, carcinogizes the fats, and caramelizes the carbohydrates”.

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You could counter that cooking releases certain nutrients as well as killing bacteria and, well, simply makes many foods taste better. Not to mention the climactic differences between Kristina’s Texas and Northern Europe; salads are simply less appetising without the sunshine. But to do so would spoil the fun and destroy the admittedly tenuous premise of this blog post.

So, where’s the link with Nazi cool? Well, Hitler was advocating all this stuff decades ago, darling.

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HJ auf Fahrt

He wasn’t a mere veggie, our Adolf, oh no! His dietary opinions went far beyond the volkish eintopfsuppe, the Germanic disdain for the western dietary impurity, and the longing to return to rye bread and autarchy. No, I tell you Hitler was the unacknowledged father of the hip diet of today.

Take this excerpt from Hitler’s Table Talk (5 November 1941):

“It’s not impossible that one of the causes of cancer lies in the harmfulness of cooked foods.”

 Or this, from 29 December 1941:

“the doctors used to say that a meat diet was indispensable for the formation of bones. This was not true … we have bad teeth … this has something to do with a diet that’s rich in yeast. Nine tenths of our diet are made up of foods deprived of their biological qualities … mortality is enormous among [people] who eat only cooked foods.”

Or this from 22 January 1942:

“When you offer a child the choice of an apple, a cake or a piece of meat it’s the apple he chooses … ancestral instinct”

So there you have it! Move aside, skeletal cool dietary gurus, Adolf beat you to it. And like the return of fascism in the fashion stakes, the extreme national socialist diet is quite obviously creeping in to trendy eating habits.

The Hitler diet: the next big foodie trend? Remember, you heard it here first.

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