Belfast Telegraph

Politicians, like chefs, should stick to bread and butter issues Headline grabber: Jamie Oliver

By Lindy McDowell

With a new TV series in the offing Jamie Oliver has resorted to cannibalism. But can you blame the multi-millionaire chef/presenter/anti-obesity campaigner/Cockney cookery icon? Celebrity is a dog eat dog sort of world and if you want to stay ahead of the pack you've got to keep your name in the headlines.

Dropping into an interview that a television producer once suggested he might try to rustle up a recipe involving human flesh was always going to be a gobsmacker as Jamie will have known. If you want to get ahead, get....well....a head.

"I thought it was one step too far," he says, with some understatement.

But was anyone ever, even remotely seriously, suggesting he have his pound of flesh? I doubt it very much. Apart from the sourcing of ingredients issue, there is the small matter of taste. OFCOM have, I imagine, guidelines on shows involving cooking people. As opposed to people cooking.

But Oliver is a bit of a master, of course, when it comes to stirring debate. When he's had something to sell (and with his multi-faceted business empire there's always something to sell) he's had a pop at such populist targets as parents who claim they can't afford to cook their children proper food but can still find the money to splash out on 50in TVs (Does a big screen television make you a bad person?), schools dinners, young people who don't want to work and social networking sites.

In his latest interview, however, he's veered a bit off the perfect parenting path by claiming that he'd be shocked if a child of his gets to university. This on account of the fact that he thinks two hours per night of homework is too much and after an hour he's saying to his own child, come on, stop, let's play, let's do something.

I am with him on this one.

Possibly by the time you've hit A-Level stage a nightly two-hour stint is in order. But increasingly younger children are being sent home with unrealistic reams of homework which has to be overseen by already burdened parents.

Is this actually achieving anything other than turning off all but the most bookish children? Some schools now seem to be in the business of out-sourcing teaching to the parents. It is part-time home schooling which has been landed on parents by stealth. It's not exactly fair to the pupils either.

Still they could be worse. They could be out at work with their parents. And may well be if government minister Jo Swinson has her way. Ms Swinson believes it is "bizarre" that infants are not permitted in the House of Commons. (Infantile behaviour, yes, infants, no.) The minister with responsibility for equalities says: "I hardly think it would be too much of a disruption. You can take a sword through there but you can't a baby."

In fairness to the sword, it doesn't require regular burping and nappy changes.

And given the amount that they're paid, is it too much to expect MPs to arrange child care like the rest of the working population? This isn't an equality issue. It's a Commons sense one.

In the workplace MPs should have their mind on their jobs. Not on whether Diddums needs a wee feed. What next? A break in Prime Minister's Questions for a round of The Wheels on the Bus?

The question you have to ask about all this though, is Ms Swinson really serious? Or does she just say these things, like Jamie Oliver, to command headlines? Has she thought through what happens if an MP has twins? Or where to draw the line? Toddlers? Teenagers? The family pet?

Bring them all in! Perish the thought that a working parliamentary parent should suffer from separation anxiety.

From their little ones. Or, like Mr Oliver, from having their name in the news.

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