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Quinoa Is the Latest Food That Working Class People Have Never Heard Of, Says BBC Panel

An absurd exchange on Politics Live about pies, pints, and quinoa highlights British media’s sneering inability to assess the idea of “normal people”

Close up of cooked quinoa Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

I appear to have dropped my dog whistle in your grain bowl

An absurd exchange on BBC’s Politics Live, in which six political panellists either did not understand or pretended not to understand quinoa’s meaning, spelling, and pronunciation has again underscored British politics’ shaky grasp of “normal” people — and what “normal” people eat.

Pollster Deborah Mattison reflected on focus groups from 2018 in Crewe — which voted in Labour MP Laura Smith in 2017 and Conservative MP Kieran Mullan in 2019 — saying that “the culture and the image of the [Labour] party ... back in the day was the party of a pie and a pint, I know where I am with Labour, what’s where I am.” Mattison contrasted this with “the move to quinoa,” and, the killer line, “nobody could spell quinoa, by the way,” to which presenter Jo Coburn said “I don’t blame them.” Labour MP, and former director at the World Economic Forum Stephen Kinnock — whose father was Labour leader and vice president of the European Commission and whose mother was Minister of State for the UN, said he thought it was “kwi-no-ah.” Mattison then explains that Labour “isn’t the party that represents people like me, it doesn’t sound like me, it doesn’t look like me, it’s all about ... People who live in north London.” Mattison did not clarify what the focus groups meant by “people like me,” but it seems safe to conclude that they did not mean a prime minister who went to Eton and Oxford.

While Mattison explains that this is an “extreme point of view,” she also says “there is something serious to unpick” in the assumption that residents of Crewe, and by extension, the fabled “red wall” that Labour must win back, are only going to identify with a party that eschews the consumption of pies and pints and banishes grains that are available for 50p in supermarkets to the fringes of fancy / expensive / upper-class / liberal metropolitan elite culinary authentocracy. As former Labour leadership contender Owen Smith proved when acting befuddled at receiving biscuits with a cappuccino, the political and media classes’ fetish for What the Working Classes Eat is rooted in a patronising, beige-tinted, white anachronism that only comes to the fore when voters complain about politicians being “out of touch”. Prominent commentators acting bewildered by a widely available grain to score points? There’s little more out of touch than that. [BBC]

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