How A Hot Pastry Snack Became A Bomb In The British Class War

Pastygate The SUn

Photo: The Sun / @Suttonnick

There’s nothing like a combination of mundane details and political ill-will to create a huge scandal in the UK.Pastygate, the latest example, may be one of the best yet. The name comes from Cornish pasties, a baked good, somewhat like a meat-pie, traditionally found in Cornwall, an area of South West England.

The problem began when George Osborne, the UK’a Chancellor of the Exchequer, explained that there would be a 20p (30c) tax added (or rather a loophole closed) to warm food served from supermarkets and chain restaurants.

The tax is intended to help smaller restaurants and fast food outlets — who already pay the tax — compete with larger chains, especially supermarkets. But there’s a problem.

Osborne — privately-schooled and Oxford-educated — was asked yesterday by an opposition MP John Mann during a Treasury Committee on a treasury committee what was the last time he had eaten a hot pasty from popular (and extremely cheap) chain bakery Greggs.

“I can’t remember the last time I bought a pasty at Greggs”, he responded, flummoxed.

The symbolism was rife — the top 50p top tax rate ended, and a tax added to a hot snack eaten by many working class members of British societies. To keep within their household budgets, Gregg’s eaters would have to have the snack cold.

The New Statesman’s Peter McHugh explains:

Had there been a Greggs adjacent to the Treasury during the Budget deliberations, or had there been a delicacy served in the Cameron or Osborne households, then Pastygate may have been avoided.

Instead the law of unintended consequences applied and allowed Mr Mann [the Labour MP who asked the question] to echo his leader Ed Miliband with the charge that, clearly, we are not all in this together.

The Independent reports that Greggs has seen millions slashed off its shares since the tax was renounced.

David Cameron tried to salvage the claims this morning, the Telegraph reports:

“I’m a pasty eater myself,” he said at an event about the Olympics. “I go to Cornwall on holiday. I love a hot pasty. I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time. The choice was to have one of their small ones or their large ones. I’ve got a feeling I opted or the large one and very good it was too.”

But it’s too late. The Sun has sunk its teeth into the story, turning the “Pastytax” into a classic example of the out of touch British elite shirking their financial responsibilities, leaving it to the poor, hungry working man to pick up the tab.

The Telegraph is even live-blogging the debacle >

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