WITH the Great British Bake Off final in mind, it is fair to say that there was nothing soggy-bottomed about Theresa May’s speech at her party’s gingham altar yesterday.
The home secretary claimed that migrants posed a threat to national cohesion. “When immigration is too high,” she told the Tory party conference, “when the pace is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.”
At the time she was wearing a black asymmetrically cut dress that didn’t look all that cohesive to me. Thus clad she trotted out the usual unfriendly Tory stuff about immigration, cynically dressed up as concern for social cohesion. She blamed the weakest and newest members of society for threatening to bring the house down around our heads – somehow forgetting all her banker friends who were bailed out from the public purse by the billions. It also slipped her mind to mention cutting tax credits and slashing local funds for libraries and education – both of which provide strong social glue. Or the straining health service. Or the big hammer her party wants to take to the BBC.
May also outlined what she called her “tough new plan for asylum” by saying that the UK would not offer asylum to anyone wealthy and fit enough to make it to this country. In other words, sail across as many rough seas as you like in all those leaky boats; tramp through as many hostile deserts as you wish; walk endless footsore miles through Europe if you want to – but you’re not getting in here because all that shows you’re too fit to be considered for asylum.
It’s funny how logic can be turned on its head. Except that it’s not funny at all.
May’s speech was condemned as “thoroughly chilling” by the Refugee Council, which is only to be expected. More surprising was the criticism from the Institute of Directors which said it was “astonished by the home secretary’s irresponsible rhetoric” and accused her of pandering to anti-immigration sentiment. And so she was – piling her speech with nasty flourish after nasty flourish. She added more extras to that sugar-free speech than Flora did to her cakes on Bake Off.
I hardly have the stomach to mention Jeremy Hunt. Well, he often sends me for the Rennies. The health secretary got in before Theresa May with his own bit of right-wing baking for the gingham groupies by proclaimed that Britons will work as hard as the Chinese and Americans because the government was cutting tax credits. So never mind the poorest workers losing up to £1,300 a year – a policy which even the usually Tory-supporting Sun opposes – they should thank the government for making them work harder in what is “a very important cultural signal”.
“My wife in Chinese,” Hunt added, as if that clinched it. No disrespect to Mrs Hunt, but the only response to that is a big fat ‘so what?’ How infuriating it is when politicians drag their personal circumstances into an argument; infuriating and irrelevant.
As for the Bake Off final, my chocolate money is on Nadiya. According to Quentin Letts, this choice makes me guilty of political correctness. Letts wondered in the Daily Mail if the contestants were “chosen because they fitted some Twitter-influenced metropolitan wish-list”. While elsewhere in the Mail, Amanda Platell suggested Flora was “kicked off because she wasn’t PC enough for the Beeb”. No, Amanda, it was because she kept sticking bloody macarons on everything and didn’t listen when Great Aunty Mary and vain old gimlet-eyed Uncle Paul told her to stop doing it.
As for saying that Flora might still be in the show if she had made a chocolate mosque instead of a chocolate carousel, that’s as cracked as an over-baked speech by the home secretary.
In answer to suggestions that the poor white middle-classes have been expunged from the Bake Off final, I offer in evidence Ian’s quail eggs. From his own quails. I think the middle classes are probably safe.
It comes to something when a fantastically popular show about baking is used as yet another example of political correctness gone mad. Bake Off hasn’t grabbed me quite as much this year, but I’ll still be sitting down at eight for the final. No cakes, though – eaten too many of those lately.