Bread and circuses and #sandwichgate

sarnigateAs the country is allegedly gripped by #sandwichgate which, if you missed it, relates to this Daily Mail front page, it’s worth a dip back into the history of the Mail’s enthusiasm for bread-based stories.

In 1911 the paper began campaigning for better bread to replace the toxic processed variety that contributed to disease and a population so stunted that the army had to content itself with recruits just five foot tall.

The Mail itself marked the centenary of this campaign, in 2011, and reported that: “Lord Northcliffe told reporters he wanted a story about bread in the paper every day for a year.” The campaign had been “begun by the father of MP Sir Oswald Mosley. In an interview, the MP (who was later to become notorious as leader of a British fascist party) told the Mail that bad bread was to blame for ‘degeneracy’ and ‘the decline in the national physique.”

One hundred years on, the Mail reported: “Shockingly…the fight for better bread as being key to better health continues to this day.”

And although we might be taller these days, our continuing degeneracy is doubtless newly evidenced by our shocking inability to put something between two slices of bread and thus having to recruit sandwich makers from overseas.

But what really continues today, of course, is not the scandal of dodgy bread or inept sarnie-makers but the Mail’s ability to create its own irresistible news-snacks which Northcliffe called ‘talking points’.

As an aside, it’s curious that the Mail’s point today is that a UK company is having to recruit hundreds of sarnie-makers from Hungary. Only a conspiracy theorist could find something in that, but in one of history’s little sidelines Northcliffe’s brother, Rothermere, became known as “The Little Father of Hungary” for campaigning to restore that country’s lost lands back in the 1920s. There was, briefly, talk of making him their king, and today there’s still a statue of him in Budapest.




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