By DANIEL SILLETT
If I may, I am going to begin with a culinary conundrum. It is, of course, the age-old debate of whether or not pineapple belongs on a pizza.
This question makes and breaks friendships, relationships, and marriages. It is undoubtedly the first controversial opinion that arises whenever in the vicinity of an Italian restaurant – or a Domino’s delivery driver. And, usually, the jury ends up extremely divided and rather heated.
The problem with pineapple on pizza is our innate sense that things must ‘go together’. They must mix, compliment, and perhaps even improve one another.
Now, I don’t care what your answer is to this question – if you really want to have it out, meet me down at the pub some time. What I do care about is what I am going to call ‘pineapple pizza politics’. History is in the making here – you will be citing this new term of mine in your essays before long. So pay attention.
Pineapple pizza politics quite simply refers to something which controversially mixes itself with politics. At least, I have decided that is what it means. To plug the food analogy one more time, imagine a debate of what to drizzle on the Houses of Parliament: ketchup or mayonnaise?
Now, let us scrap the food stuff and get back to real life. Because I am sure that the eagle-eyed reader would have guessed where I might be heading with this.
Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary, is going on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Phew, I’ve said it – I’m over the hump.
This marks a trend which has exponentially increased in the past six years, whereby popular culture is infiltrating politics. It began with Brexit, proliferated with the memes about Jeremy Corbyn’s loony lefty army, before peaking with Boris Johnson being reincarnated as an olive and decapitated by a flying frisbee.
Social media has become obsessed with politics. And that is because politics is tragically funny right now, given the seemingly constant flow of scandals, affairs, scandals, resignations, and more scandals. In essence, people have to find ways to laugh at the shenanigans, or else they will cry. Making a meme out of these catastrophic failures on social media is a way for the whole globe to partake in the amusement.
But, although it will of course be highly entertaining to watch rule-breaker Matt Hancock eating kangaroo genitalia, it is a serious problem. This is because, for all the laughter they currently provide, these are the people who should be running the country – and, to a certain extent, the world. Jetting off to Australia to look like a clown on national television for three weeks isn’t doing much to help your rising costs of living, nor helping Ukraine fight Vladimir Putin, nor solving climate change.
And this is where the pineapple pizza politics palaver makes sense: popular culture is interfering with politics, just as pineapple interferes with a pizza.
I like the way that popular culture draws politics away from its mythical lofty echelons of upper-class men wearing top hats, signing some parchment with a quill, whilst sipping French red wine and smoking a cigar. Politics is about people. And social media helps bring political messages to a wider cohort – particularly younger people – in many creative ways.
That is great. But looking at the situation through rose-tinted glasses is equivalent to blinding yourself from reality. Politicians are no different to other workers; being a politician is their job. It just so happens that their job has a crucial public function of ensuring our democracy runs smoothly and that people are represented. When this linchpin is reduced to a joke on Twitter, is it at all surprising that the country seems to be going to the dogs?
Politics and popular culture, then, are yin and yang. Popularising politics is essential to ensure everybody is informed; yet over-popularising politics risks undermining the severity of the profession.
Now, Matt Hancock has had his comeuppance once already, by breaking lockdown rules to have an affair with his aide. The fact that he has the audacity to put himself in the shameful spotlight again is highly commendable – yet also incredibly idiotic.
Ironically enough, it seems he’s already broken typical I’m a Celebrity rules. Usually, contestants are not allowed contact with others once they arrive in Australia. But Matt Hancock has been allowed a mobile phone so that he can keep up the good work with his constituents. I am sure they are all thrilled.
As with much in UK politics these days, the situation is either brilliant, or bonkers. The fairy tale headline is enticing: ‘Matt Hancock, laughing over some crocodile foot soup, shows the public that politicians can be humans too, whilst also raising significant awareness about dyslexia during his time in the jungle’.
However, you just know that the snake pit of the British media will opt for something a little more vindictive. Something along the lines of ‘Matt Han-cock: former Health Secretary lives up to his name in his twenty-fourth Bushtucker Trial of the series’, seems more likely.
In other words, I think it is bonkers. Matt Hancock has endorsed the mockery of pineapples being splattered at the political pizza, to the extent that he is now the one throwing the pineapples – and disgracing Parliament in the process.
Rishi Sunak, the UK’s new Prime Minister, is quite right to express his disappointment at Matt Hancock’s decision to sign up. But, as for Rishi’s claim that he won’t be watching, let us just say this – I’m sure he will be.
Image: Flickr/ Number 10