From The Guardian:
Did the anti-Thatcher protest ‘fail’? It’s a matter of perspective
During Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, boasted to all and sundry of how the late prime minister had once physically restrained him when he lunged at some pulverised ducks’ breasts. He had intended to cram into his mouth. Fatty duck pâté, it transpired, was a forbidden fruit of Thatcherism.
Like thousands of Thatcher refuseniks across the land, rendered impotent with irritation by biased media coverage and the insensitive splendour of her highly politicised funeral, I immediately rang up my local Waitrose and ordered a delivery of every punnet of duck pâté they had in stock. They could censor our views; they could rewrite the history books; but they could not prevent us pushing the very fatty pâté that Thatcher so despised up to the top of the weekly pâté charts. Or could they?
The Daily Mail saw the skyward sales of duck pâté as evidence of a “campaign organised by left-wing activists”, but the truth is the anti-Thatcher pâté protest took off largely of its own accord. Nobody needed to be nudged. Even Morrissey, a staunch vegetarian, suspended his squeamishness and was pictured in the press the day following the bishop’s indiscreet poultry paste revelation licking his 11th punnet of duck pâté clean, a beaming smile on his famously miserable face.
By Thursday evening, duck pâté looked likely to be the week’s top selling pâté, and the BBC, cowed by the Conservatives as usual, moved into damage-limitation mode. Questions were asked. If, on Saturday, duck pâté was the nation’s favourite pâté, would the hostess of BBC Radio 4’s Weekly Pâté Round-up, Nigella Lawson, be gobbling it up as normal alongside the other 49 pâtés in the chart, or would a censorious exception be made? The controller of Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams, was grilled on air about pâté by the BBC’s own Samira Ahmed.
“It is normal procedure, as you know,” Williams explained, “for Nigella to eat a standard Waitrose punnet of each of the 50 chart pâtés live on air during the programme, while describing its taste to the listeners in a breathless eroticised voice. On Saturday, if the duck pâté is the people’s most popular exotic paste as expected, she will instead sample only a teaspoonful of the protest pâté, after a brief chat with Nick Robinson and Heston Blumenthal, aimed at contextualising the now politicised foodstuff for confused or vegan listeners.”
Meanwhile, untroubled by the possible reduction in the licence fee should Cameron’s Conservatives retain power indefinitely, Sky News was brazenly showing a loop of the channel’s trophy comedy stars, Ruth Jones and Robert Lindsay, lapping up endless punnets of duck pâté at a sunlit seaside cafe. “A lot of my actor friends said they wouldn’t appear on Sky TV eating loads of punnets of duck pâté,” Lindsay said to Jones, over and over again, “but now they are saying they wish they had and that they have seen that they themselves are weak and that I am right and much better than them.”
On Friday, when the duck pâté finally hit the No 1 slot, social media-savvy Conservatives, led by the would-be personality Louise Mensch, staged a belated fight back. Mensch tweeted a picture of her husband, the Metallica manager Peter Mensch, allowing her his golden credit card to buy herself a pallet piled high with punnets of pâté de foie gras at an all-night New York deli. She encouraged her followers to do the same, hoping to “knock the miserable lefties’ duck muck off the top spot”.
Mensch’s subversive idea spurted through the Twitterverse like a frozen spear of urine falling from an aircraft toilet, and soon pâté de foie gras was itself shooting up Nigella’s pâté chart. Even David Cameron himself admitted to having bought some, which he planned to smear joyfully over other foodstuffs later that evening in the company of Helena Bonham Carter and her husband, Morbius the Living Vampire, both of whom he was sure would enjoy the chance to eat pâté de foie gras and celebrate the life of a woman who, whatever you thought of her politics, was simply remarkable and had saved us from the unions.
Overnight, duck pâté partisans noticed essential flaws in Mensch’s campaign. Wasn’t pâté de foie gras made from the livers of geese? And weren’t geese, like ducks, both members of the Anatidae family? Was the goose sufficiently different from the duck for the purchase of its bloated liver to count as a protest against the purchase of the duck pâté? It was even rumoured that “foie gras” was the French for “fat liver”. Wasn’t it the fat content of the pulverised ducks’ breasts that had led Thatcher to prevent the bishop from eating them? And yet here was Mensch urging her supporters to buy, as a tribute to the late fat-loathing prime minister, a pâté specifically named after its high fat content, and which contained even more fat than the pâté that had sickened the baroness when the bishop of London tried to touch it? It was as if Louise Mensch was some kind of stupid, embarrassing, feckless idiot.
Sky news interviewed three diffident French pâté de foie gras farmers early on Saturday morning, who refused to be drawn on the fat content of the pâté de foie gras, the meaning of the phrase pâté de foie gras, or even the exact species of the bird from which pâté de foie gras was made. Giving nothing away, they were able to watch pâté de foie gras sales continue to grow, the pâté’s naive Tory purchasers unaware of the irony of their actions.
Despite the best efforts of those aiming to register their displeasure, on Saturday afternoon, Nigella Lawson revealed the duck pâté to have been displaced at the top of her pâté chart by a plantain pâté with Reggae Reggae sauce, made by the celebrity chef Levi Roots. She duly licked up little more than a sliver of the duck pâté and handed over to Nick Robinson, whose choice of language nonetheless toed the official BBC Tory establishment line.
The protesters, apparently, had “failed” to get the duck pâté to No 1. Perhaps Nick, or maybe we had succeeded in getting it to No 2 against all odds, without the benefit of a marketing campaign, and with the might of Louise Mensch against us. Like so many aspects of the Thatcher legacy, it’s a matter of perspective.
By Stewart Lee