Pastygate is a such a load of nonsense.
A Labour MP is out to say that because some top Tories have not recently bought and eaten a pasty they are uniquely out of touch with how others live. They say that Francis Maude’s ownership of a dining room makes him very middle class.
Let me explain a little about the MP lifestyle. The Commons meets in the evenings. It has dining rooms where you can buy a silver service dinner whilst waiting for a 10pm vote. I often see Labour MPs doing just that. At 8pm they sit down and tuck into three courses and coffee as their main meal of the day. It is modelled on country house life in the England of the 1930s, and similar to Oxbridge High table or officers’ mess dinners in the military.
I daresay many Labour MPs also own detached houses which still sport dining rooms, or were originally built with such features. MPs who say some MPs are out of touch because of their lifestyles should remember their own. On a minimum of £65,000 a year no MP shares in personal experience the money worries of someone on £10,000 or £20,000 a year facing the current inflation rate.
Living an MP’s life on an MP’s income does not, however, prevent a good MP understanding how others live and representing them well. I felt best represented by a female Prime Minister. She could not experience any of the male feelings and wishes, yet she represented my outlook better than her male successors. A good MP or PM has sensitivity to the position and feelings of others. He or she has intuition and perception about how others live and what they are seeking to achieve. For much of the day you are dealing with the problems of others which are not your problem, which often gives you a better impartiality and fairness of judgement. You call on empathy. You think yourself into the position of the constituent.
Modern life is thankfully far less class based than 1930’s Britain. Those same MPs who eat dinner at 8 in the Commons, might well buy a pasty and pint or a sandwich on the run another day at a different time. Let’s break away from the old class stereotypes. By the way I have not bought a pasty for a long time. I do not think that prevents me from representing the pasty eaters. I deal with both motherhood and apple pie, though I will never be a mother and have not bought a shop apple pie for months.