Wednesday 4th October 2006
Conference choice debate.
Chaired by Theresa Villiers MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Anna Soubry, + Gedling PPC in 2005, Conservative PPC for Broxtowe
Matthew Parris, Journalist
Boris Johnson MP, Shadow Higher Education Minister.
The debate choice was:
1. Road pricing is the future
2. Is Jamie Oliver a national hero?
3. Supermarkets have too much power.
4. We like the new look conference.
The choice made by the audience was #2: Is Jamie Oliver a national hero?
The panel was introduced and the Chair focused immediately on Boris Johnson in the light of the furore surrounding his alleged comments regarding Jamie Oliver at the conference. Johnson embraced this opportunity with gusto and declared himself to be not only in support of the motion but, in response to a muttered comment from the panel, that he is a determined member of the pie-eating liberation front. Also that the BBC had told him they were at a loss as to how his comments had been reported upside down.
Boris had pointed out that while schools are going to the often unfunded expense of ‘providing alfalfa or what have you’, as long as the children have the choice of crisps and junk food then it will be ‘difficult’ to persuade them to chose the healthy option and what is needed is a completely paternalistic approach. With not enough funding from central government, Boris simply voiced that he didn’t know how the initiative would work without parents’ support and an ‘eat what you’re given approach’.
Matthew Parris then told us he had bumped into William Hague and, as a short notice replacement, had asked him for advice on this issue. “Support the issue” was apparently Hague’s advice, “and if Boris was suggesting otherwise..”, “I wasn’t” added Boris. “But on personalities” continued Matthew Parris, ” support Boris” to loud agreement from the audience. Parris then made a serious point: In politics we want politicians to speak their minds and when they do we shoot them down in flames. Parris then recounted the press feeding frenzy over Boris and that Boris had been subjected to a circle of ‘about 200 photographers’ whilst he wrote an article.
Comments in favour or against the motion were then invited from the floor.
Sally Roberts from Hammersmith said that she had a problem with ‘food issues’ and dieting and stated that she disagred with ‘food fascism’, declaring that ‘5 & 8 yr olds will be on diets’ and ‘vilified for their body size’.
Barbera Stroud from the Poole constituency focused on the subject of water, “drinking, shower, bath, swimming,” but for how long could these be enjoyed? Global warming could cause acute shortages of water, water is for life and whilst we can make economies now, her suggestion is for the government to build underground reservoirs to collect winter water. She was interrupted by the Chair and asked to finish which the audience applauded. She ended with “We cannot live without it”. Anna Soubry agreed and added that the threat of drought was a real concern.
Derek Thomas disagreed with the motion because he said Jamie Oliver had made bad language fashionable.
Boris said that he wasn’t familiar with Jamie Oliver’s bad language and that he there was nothing bad about ‘pukka’ and that there is no bad language in Jamie Oliver’s books, which caused amusement. He agreed with the previous point about water and said that Jamie Oliver should “get kids to drink it” rather than the fizzy alternative.
James, a 20 yr old male school governor who’s school had employed the regime “for a year now” applauded Jamie Oliver, the healthy eating initiative and for “sticking his head above the parapet”
Mike Christie lamented that given a choice, the only people who ate healthy food in his school were the staff – “We need to stop serving unhealthy food to make it work”
Matthew Parris interjected that Jamie Oliver has succeeded because he’s a self-publicist and we’ve got to have self-publicists to draw attention to issues. People who are good at getting attention – Jamie Oliver does and so does Boris. (the audience warmly agreed)
Boris urged Matthew Parris to focus on the issue. “We can’t get back to a paternalist solution” he asked “but I’d like to know what you think. What is our solution?” he asked the audience, “Are we going to ban packed lunches?” Boris mooted the idea that a completely paternalistic solution might be unrealistic IF the parents aren’t behind it. There is no way a school can win if parents are irresponsible enough to put crisps into packed lunches.
Cllr Sue Littimore, a mother with an 11yr old daughter who she said was “on the verge of anorexia” and supported her view that doctors rely too much on the Body Mass Index, that by their reckoning, some athletes would be clinically obese. Jamie Oliver works, she said “because he comes across as simple” which raised a laugh from the audience, though they understood her meaning that Jamie Oliver had a good, simple message.
Anna Soubry couldn’t believe that Boris had ever read a Jamie Oliver recipe, even though he said he had cooked a Jamie Oliver dish. “I think Jamie Oliver is a star” she went on, “just like you Boris”.
“I couldn’t disagree with you less” answered Boris, to everyone’s enjoyment.
Anna Soubry also stated that her children eat healthily but that she had never packed a lunch for them, as she doesn’t believe in packing lunches. “They eat what they are told to eat”
Matthew Parris reminded us that there was no golden age of packed lunches and that he, in the fifties, had a jam sandwich and a banana every day.
Dawn Parry of Weston Super Mare argued for the motion and stated that her husband worked in an inner city school and that since a healthy eating programme had been introduced it was noticed that the children’s behaviour had changed and improved. So, she said emphatically, “Jamie Oliver IS a hero”
Cllr Anne Saunders from Winchester argued in favour of the motion. She said that she voted for this debate “not to focus on Boris Johnson’s egotism”, a statement which did not gain any support from the crowd. She disagreed with children eating “toxic food” which made behaviour “impossible” and stated that “you are what you eat” and that “Jamie Oliver is a hero, way above most politicians”
Cllr Mistry from Brent agreed that Jamie Oliver is a hero but pointed out the many fast food outlets in the high street. So, after the 200 photographers spectacle, she urged Boris to go to Brent and try to stop planning permission for fast food outlets.
Cllr Wendy Prince said “TOSH!” to the motion. “Aim this at the parents, not kids” she said, “some don’t know what a pea is in a pod”.
Anna Soubry agreed: “Yes, they don’t know how to cook because we don’t teach it in schools any more”, a point which gained applause. “Jamie Oliver inspires” she said.
Matthew Parris admitted that he can’t cook and that we were all in danger of “becoming a bit pious”. He doesn’t cook and eats bread and cheese when he’s hungry, and he’s alright.
Boris admitted when asked that he does cook but that he’s not a good cook. He agreed with the lady’s point. He went on to say that at 17stone plus.. (plus 3 stone added Anna Soubry) Not plus 3 stone said Boris. “I’m fat, I’m proud to be fat” and he thought we should all “worry less about using these words like ‘fatso'” which caused laughter from the audience.
Annabel Harriet told us that her school had embraced the initiative and had a school garden so children could grow food, cook it, as they taught cookery, and then eat it. It was a great success. “Jamie Oliver is a hero” she declared.
Matthew Parris suggested that as the Conservative Party Conference was now more open, “why not get Jamie Oliver to speak?”
Boris thought this an excellent idea. “Jamie Oliver is the messiah” he announced and he was glad this topic was chosen as the subject for discussion. Boris planted his flag firmly in the Jamie Oliver camp and salutes him. However, Boris thought that for the programme to work it needs to get “sensible, logical support” from all concerned, to which the audience loudly agreed.
The motion was declared carried: Jamie Oliver is a national hero.
The Chair added that if Jamie Oliver was a national hero then Boris Johnson was a national treasure.
Edmond Dantes & Melissa CW