UK Politics

What’s so bad about beer and sandwiches?

Its TUC week and there is a distinct lack of interest in the subject in the blogosphere apart from one Trotblogger who is at the conference and sounds rather bored.

Well, we are going to keep an eye on things.

While TUC week might not bring the political excitment of the past it does at least ensure that the media go into full cliche mode. And when it is trade unions and their relationship with the Labour Party it seems journalists and politicians simply cannot resist using the phrase “beer and sandwiches”.

There must have been some ammendments to the rule books of all the major unions in the past decade because whether the Gen Sec is of the left or right (or in mediaspeak ‘awkward’ or ‘reasonable’) you will not find any official who is in favour of a ‘return to beer and sandwiches’. Never.

Even Yorkshireman Derek Simpson, who is supposed to be an ‘old-school’ union leader, will have nothing to do with pints and butties:

“Our workers came down on buses, we got MPs out… we were on the green across from the House of Commons, not sat in some smoky room supping a beer or sandwiches..” he told the Guardian.

(Note: Beer and sandwiches are particularly dangerous if eaten in smoky rooms. I understand the presence of ‘men in suits’ can also tip some people over the edge)

If there is the slightest whiff of ale or a stale crust then the Tories will sieze their chance.

A Conservative press release last week opened with the line:

Tony Blair has sought to head off a growing revolt among Labour activists by giving a more influential “beer and sandwiches” role to Britain’s trade union barons…

If we didn’t get the point then Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Tim Yeo made sure with a second order: suggesting the Government was returning to the “beer and sandwiches era, which brought shame and discredit to Labour governments in the 1960s and 70s.”

It’s time to take a stand. I have to say there are few pleasures in life I enjoy more than a pint of John Smiths and a cheese and branston sandwich.

So during this TUC week, Harry’s Place will be keeping a close eye out for those enemies of beer and sandwiches and providing a regular update on their appearances in the media. Any ale and sarnie spots from readers will be gratefully received.