While in Liverpool last weekend I took the opportunity to check whether the couple of supermarkets I happened to walk past were stocked with jars of Marmite. Happily for those devotees of the love-it-or-loathe-it spread made from… retch alert… brewer’s yeast, the shelves were positively groaning under their weight. In fact, I have never seen so much Marmite.
Which could only mean one thing – the Corbyn-led Labour Party was about to roll into town.
This week’s party conference at the Liverpool Arena will be full of Jeremy/Marmite lovers and loathers although the former are now clearly in the majority, thus the full supermarket shelves. Look, I’m not being rude about the Labour leader. The parallel with Marmite is one he himself embraces, and in his office at the House of Commons he has a jar of the sticky dark brown spread with the name on the label replaced by the word “Corbyn”.
However, there are those among that increasingly endangered species – Jeremy loathers inside the Labour Party – who prefer to compare him with a different spread. He is a Nutella politician.
This Italian concoction of sweetened palm oil, hazelnut and cocoa is also a binary choice for millions. But unlike Marmite, which is supercharged with B vitamins and makes use of a byproduct of the brewing industry which would otherwise go to landfill, Nutella is potentially dangerous both for you and the environment. Two tablespoons of the spread contain the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar, which of course means that being addicted to Jeremy… sorry, Nutella… is unwise. And don’t get me started on the deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations that is endangering the habitat of rare Sumatran orangutans, with which Jeremy loathers can’t help but identify. And don’t get them started on the complete nuttiness of his attitude to Brexit.
Okay, this metaphor is now starting to spread rather thinly. Clearly I have been reading too many of Boris Johnson’s recent columns. Boris likes to whizz up political metaphors in a food processor and see what happens. “Let’s put a tiger in the tank,” he wrote of our Brexit negotiations, “and stop letting the grass grow under our feet.” On our wrangle with the EU over the question of the post-Brexit Irish border, he huffed: “We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution, and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.” A week later he wrote that our Brexit negotiations will end “in a spectacular political car crash. In the ensuing recriminations the road will be cordoned off… How did Britain end up upside down in the ditch with all four wheels spinning lazily in the air?”
Not to be outdone, the Guardian invoked The Sound Of Music for Theresa May’s trip to the EU leaders’ summit in Salzburg, home of the famous Von Trapp family. Unfortunately, a few of her favourite things as set out in her Chequers proposals were rejected. It looks like she’ll have to climb every mountain to find an agreement, says the Guardian.
Oh yes, we are living through a golden age of vivid political metaphors, and every self-respecting columnist has a duty to line up our politicians against the Palace of Westminster and splatter them with paintballs that are every colour of the rainbow.
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