Article by John Blundell on food regulation

If it were not so utterly risible it might make an episode of Yes, Prime Minister . With many apologies to Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn here goes:

The scene is the Prime Minister’s office at 10 Downing Street and Gordon Brown (GB) is at his desk when the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (GR) is shown in by Sir Humphrey (SH).

SH: Prime Minister, chef Gordon Ramsay is here to see you.

GR: Gordon (expansively), at least my ratings are up!

GB: Yes, well! (coughs) What can I do for you?

GR: Well Gord it’s really very simple. I want you to ban out-of-season fruit and vegetables from restaurant menus; I want you to ban fat chefs; and I want you to stop Delia from encouraging the use of ready-made ingredients: that’s cheating.

GB: So let me see if I have this right:

No fresh peas in winter?

No asparagus in December?

No strawberries in March?

Only beetroot, sprouts and parsnips in January?

Only chicory, leeks and cauliflower in February?

GR: (Enthusiastically) Yes!

GB: So who would run this?

GR: Local government inspectors would make secret visits and check out menus. Violators would face heavy penalties.

GB: And if they failed to pay the fines?

GR: Well they’d be sent to prison!

GB: (Alarmed) Prison?

GR: Yes, prison. The same kind of prison we need for fat chefs and the likes of Delia.

GB: (Sarcastically) Maybe they could all work in the kitchen!

GR: We need a law to require the use of seasonal local British produce. A national diet – like the national curriculum – which is in tune with the four seasons is better for cooking and the health of the planet.

GB: (Nonplussed) Humphrey what do you think?

SH: Well Prime Minister, I am sure Chef Ramsay has only the good of the country and his profession at heart. The fact that he has a new TV series in the offing certainly cannot have influenced him in getting wall-to-wall coverage for his proposals.

GB: So?

SH: Prime Minister, our prisons are full of dangerous criminals. I’m sure you would not welcome the publicity if we let a thug or rapist or murderer out early to make way for a Delia or a fat chef or a chef using carrots out of season. Especially if he re-offends.

GB: (Encouragingly) And?

SH: Prime Minister, we also have to think of all those farmers in less developed countries who, despite the EU, are establishing markets here. Trade seems to work better than aid Prime Minister.

GB: Anything else?

SH: Well it’s not clear to HMG that the chef’s ideas are at all well-grounded environmentally!

GB: (Cheering up) Environmentally?

SH: Yes Prime Minister. Take lamb from New Zealand. Farmers there use far less fertiliser than ours do; so their carbon footprint is much lower despite the many thousands of miles the meat is transported. There are many similar examples.

GB: Well, Gordon?

If Chef Gordon promises to stick to the kitchen and keep out of political economy then I will promise to do the opposite.

For more articles by John Blundell see
Waging the War of Ideas