Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spud Gun

We live in a highly regulated world of standards and rules. You can’t get a job digging holes until you’ve jumped through the hoops of health and safety and gained – often at great expense – the requisite certificate that informs your employer’s insurers that you tick all the essential boxes to indemnify them against claims due to any shortfalls in your ability to actually dig holes. In fact, the more pre-eminent and pervasive the health, safety, diversity, inclusivity and equality agenda, the further down the hierarchy of priorities is pushed an ability to actually do the job.

I train electricians for a living and just as in every other industry there is a nagging suspicion that each successive intake is given more leeway than the last and there is little doubt that every decade sees a lowering of actual technical and academic standards, concomitant with a raising of the bar to entry of inconsequential hurdles such as site safety cards, registration with a plethora of upstart controlling bodies and a host of qualifications taught to the test, with little regard by the men in black in the awarding bodies for whether or not they contribute to or detract from getting the right men in the job.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, say the French, ever ready with the mots justes for just these occasions. Same old same old, same old shit. But after all, it’s how we like it. The latest British Social Attitudes Survey reveals – surprise surprise – that we preferred it when we were all a bit more the same than we are now. We pretend to tolerate difference but really we want to be sure of what we’re getting. Which is the main reason why tons of Jersey Royal potatoes are being left to rot; despite being perfectly decent pommes de terre they fall outside the size limits set by supermarket buyers on behalf of their customers. Better in their eyes that we pay a bit more for uniformity than have agricultural efficiency driven by a demand for cheaper food.

What is wrong with us? An entire generation has grown up with nary a sight of Esther Rantzen’s misshapen home-growns. Which brings me to poor old Ed Miliband; Labour is falling out of love with its very own odd-shaped vegetable. Sunny Hundal wrote on Labour List’s website about why, in his view, Ed still matters: but once the buyers are dead set on having the right shaped legume it’s a hard task selling a mutant variant. Ed’s Old Labour rhetoric is far too earthy; from the days when you had to roll up your sleeves and clean your veg yourself. Voters today, the few that are left, want nice uniform, sanitised and predictable varieties of politician with just the right amount of cultured blandness. Or so they think.

Westminster used to be full of colourful and popular mavericks but as fewer and fewer Members of Parliament have ever lived outside of politics is it any wonder that almost none of them seem to know what their constituents really care about? Had they been given the chance, Jersey’s potato piles could have found buyers among the less squeamish public who only wanted mash anyway; sod that Tesco only wanted to sell them what they decided was right. Which brings us back to Ed.

Ed Lightyear
Ed Lightyear: To oblivion... and beyond!

The scourge of governments in recent years has been the rise of the Special Adviser. They, the fresh produce of politics spring fully grown from their PPE degrees and run amuck through the corridors of power, whispering their clever-clever ideological thoughts into the willing, wet-behind ears of baby-faced ministers-in-waiting. But if Ed had been born in the north, as is traditional for Labour MPs, he would have realised that his inability to connect with the electorate stemmed from a simple misunderstanding of his Oxford-educated accent. You see, just like big John Prescott, instead of hiring SpAds, he’s all along been taking his advice from spuds.


  1. I wasn't aware that the World's finest potatoes were being left in fields to rot! I'm just cooking some tonight. They are undoubtedly bigger this year, but they are still as bloody tasty. I am completely perplexed. Why didn't they just bang them out on the shelves and cut the price? The mind boggles.

    I know there is a wider message in this blog entry, but I can't see past the potato quandry.

    1. Haha! Brilliant response, Chris. Keep on mashing!