Hail to the Junk Food President

I have a new column – writing about politics and food – for the excellent Mace Magazine, which also features top articles by William Boyd, Anthony Seldon, Rowan Williams, Sarah Champion and Ken Clarke…

‘You are what you eat,’ the old adage insists and since we live in an age where politics makes almost no sense perhaps it’s time we took a look at what our politicians stuff down their gullets: it may reveal untold truths about them as well as the chaos they’re presiding over. 

So let’s begin by deconstructing the plate of the most powerful man in the Western world. Donald J. Trump’s diet is – as People magazine once put it -‘populist, cheap, and maybe too salty for most people’s taste.’ As you might guess from the shape of him, the 45th President of the United States exists on junk food. 

There were ‘four major food groups’ served on Trump Force One during the American election campaign, ex-aides David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski note: ‘McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke.’ Trump’s most regular order was ‘two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish and a chocolate malted.’ The cupboards were stuffed with Vienna Fingers, potato chips, pretzels and Oreos. 

In addition to suggesting Trump is – by and large – composed of fat and sodium, this diet is also evidence of his rampaging paranoia. Michael Wolff claims his addiction to junk is rooted in his fear of being poisoned. He thought it safe to eat at McDonald’s since ‘nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.’ At nights, he likes to eat cheeseburgers alone in his room whilst watching three television screens and talking on the phone. 

Some argue all this connects him to voters. Trump may be excessively rich but he chows down just like a blue collar voter. ‘There’s nothing more American and more of-the-people than fast food,’ Republican strategist Russ Schriefer reckons.

Did it win him the 2016 election? Certainly Hillary Clinton saw food as essential to that campaign – she devotes a whole chapter of her book, What Happened? to what she ate. For breakfast – it was egg whites and vegetables and she carried hot sauce in her handbag for every other meal.

Like almost everything else about her the details seem singularly inauthentic. (Who eats vegetables for breakfast? Does she really like hot sauce or was this – as many commentators suggested – an effort to connect with black voters, perhaps, in the hope they’d overlook her Super Predator speeches in the days of Bill?) 

On Hillary’s plane there weren’t any Oreos – just a nutritionist called Liz who made brownies out of chickpea flour. While everyone’s heard of a Big Mac, Hillary snacked on ‘Flavor Blasted Goldfish.’ It’s worth noting that in the days the Clintons ruled the world, her husband’s diet closely resembled Trump’s. Now – like many a Goldman Sachs trophy spouse – he’s vegan.  

Ultimately, the more you read about what Trump eats the more fallible and human he appears. While we fear he’s got his finger on the nuclear button, actually he’s just pressing a small red one in the Oval Office through which he can order a constant supply of Diet Coke.

Thinking about all that fizz and pop inside of him he must – surely? – trump constantly. Does this explain all his hysterical outbursts? 

No one knows. 

But it certainly demystifies him – and the state of his politics.

In defence of Dominic Cummings and his secret penchant for feminist books

25th October 2019

David Cameron once called him “a career psychopath.” Marina Hyde, a “crap Rasputin”. And now the feminists are getting stuck in, branding Dominic Cummings a “demonic succubus.”

What’s he gone and done this time, you might wonder? Shockingly, appallingly and unprecedentedly – he’s been photographed toting a book bag for the Persephone bookshop, revealing a hitherto unknown penchant for obscure women’s literature. 

Some say Cummings is a genius – and he certainly is, when it comes to hurling insults. (He’s called David Davis “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus”, Ed Llewellyn “a classic third-rate suck-up-kick-down sycophant”, Cameron “a sphinx without a riddle” and Nick Clegg “self-obsessed, sanctimonious and so dishonest.”)

So one imagines that being denounced as a female demon who has sex with sleeping men will sadden him profoundly – surely they mean “incubus”? If our public intellectuals have no basic grasp of Latin what hope is there for bright young brains languishing in the state school system? Whatever happens Brexit-wise, his efforts at the Department of Education will always keep him secure in the heart of this inadequately educated comprehensive school girl…

Read on at The Daily Telegraph

There’s something thoroughly un-British about spontaneously bursting into applause

11th September 2019

‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’ is a hideously repetitive nursery song many of us were brainwashed with as children – which perhaps explains the spontaneous applause when Speaker Bercow resigned in the House of Commons earlier this week. 

Ultimately, it is a mass behaviour. Watching Bercow’s resignation at home, I almost found myself rising up to join in. Not because I felt he deserved any tribute but because whenever I hear anyone else clapping I can’t help but start clapping too. Like yawning, it’s irresistibly contagious…

Daily Telegraph

CARRY ON UP THE ZAMBEZI: ALEXANDRA FULLER’S ‘TRAVEL LIGHT, MOVE FAST’ REVIEWED

7th September 2019

I loved this book so much I was appalled. Why, when bookshops are stacked full of memoirs by authors who can’t write, isn’t Alexandra Fuller heaped up in perilous piles so near the till it’s impossible to evade her? This is like one of the most alluring Svetlana Alexievich testimonies, as if it had wandered out of the USSR and got lost in central Africa by way of a hospital in Budapest. It’s packed with exquisite jokes, quotes and details — such as when a doctor appears and ‘his gauzy green scrubs puffed out in great billows, the surgical-garb equivalent of Princess Di’s wedding dress…’

The Spectator