Jamie Oliver - Celebrity Democrat

by Mike on March 30, 2005

Like most people in Britain, the sight of Jamie Oliver often makes me think of Sainsbury’s, and little more. Yet recently, we’ve seen this cheeky little Essex-boy scamp of a TV chef show us what it means to be a living in a democracy.

Really. Hear me out.

With the run-up to the election, there’s a general tendency to assume that this is the moment at which we start ‘talking democracy’. When we’ve cast our ballots, it’ll be over for another four years (or forever, if you vote for a man who’s quite often compared to a vampire) and there’s nothing we can do. Yet this attitude is quite simply wrong, and quite contrary to the ideals of democracy which we should all aspire to if - as Tony would like - we’re going to take the post of its global advocate.

Jamie Oliver, for those of you reading across the pond, is a rather excitable TV chef, one that you either love or hate. Recently, through his latest program, he’s been championing a cause to get more money spent on school dinners, and for better provision of basic, healthy grub. Now if you’ve never had the luxury of attending a UK comp, think chips, chips, chips. Gravy.

Oliver’s program appears to have drummed up an incredible amount of support, and thanks to his pro-active approach, it’s just been announced that over three years, £280 million extra is to be spent on school dinners, as a result of his campaign. Fantastic, I say. This is of course, despite the Education Secretary’s claim that she’s had such a plan in mind for years. Right, of course you have, love.

Good food aside, this is a stunning example of popular participation in a healthy, active democracy, and it’s something that we could genuinely learn from in the run-up to a general election. Oliver gathered 270,000 signatures in support of reform; indication, surely, of the positive role the media can play in drumming up support for civil action. This is proof indeed that it doesn’t end at the ballot box, and if it takes a TV chef to show us this, then throw me a pinny and call me Delia.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }


Richard 03.30.05 at 1:57 pm

It is indeed a remarkable story, and gives me hope for our democracy. Fan’s of The Archers will know that the school dinners campaign started in Ambridge…


DH 03.30.05 at 6:54 pm

With regard to the title of your post. Being a US citizen, I cringe when people say or imply that being a Democrat is being pro-democracy just because the names are similar. Our nation in the US and in a similar case to your nation the UK(other than the monarchy) is a Democratic REPUBLIC. The reason for the clarification is that the REPUBLIC was formed to protect the minority from the majority. If we had a pure Democracy then the minority would never have a voice in government and thereby excluded from society and its nation. Boy those Founding Fathers were brilliant. :) Rock on


Soap Box 03.30.05 at 6:56 pm

Perhaps Jamie would like to revolutionise, the so-called ‘healthy diet’ which is served up to the poor unfortunate N.H.S. patients


Eugene 03.30.05 at 8:41 pm

Relax DH. Why do you Americans act like you invented democracy?
Besides your Founding Fathers did not invent it in a vacuum. They
were inspired by English Common Law. And this is coming from your friend in the snowy wastes of Toronto.

Kudos to Jamie Oliver and his petition. It just shows that
personality and petitions will make the government sit up and
listen and hopefully take action.


Richard 03.30.05 at 10:18 pm

Hi DH - When a Brit calls someone a democrat it means no more than someone who upholds democracy. It’s been capitalized because it’s in a title. Whether Jamie Oliver would be a Democrat I have no idea. But he is clearly a democrat. ;)


Mark Byron 03.31.05 at 3:05 am

Better lunches seem to be a good idea. Spending a buck a kid (a rough exchange-rate guess at 0.6 of a pound) on lunch doesn’t seem to be a budget-buster, but multiplying a quarter per kid per day does start to add up.

However, I’ve got a language question. The BBC piece seems to use lunch and dinner interchangably, while you go with dinner. There are some areas in the US, mostly southern and/or rural, that the meals of the day are “breakfast, dinner and supper” while the norm elsewhere is “Breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

What’s the split on that in the UK?


Richard 03.31.05 at 10:17 am

It’s partly a class and age thing.

Where I was growing up it was breakfast, dinner and tea. The only time lunch was used was in, for example, “packed lunch”. My impression is that breakfast, lunch and dinner are used pretty universally, except that we still talk about “school dinners”, which explains why the BBC wrote the piece the way they did.


Mike 03.31.05 at 2:46 pm

Interestinf points, DH. And yes, as richard points out, Jamie Oliver is referred to in my title as simply someone who believes in democracy. It’s no reference to a party allegiance. I’m not sure I get your point about ‘pure democracy’; there’s no such thing. Of course, your constitutional model is quite different from ours, but in either case, there’s never been such a thing as a real movement towards democratic ‘purity’, by which I guess you mean active Athenian-style democracy, rather than representative?

And on another note, I always, like Richard, have had breakfast, dinner and tea. Though since i’ve been mixing with these posh southern types in Swansea, i’ve started eating more lunch. Me mum’d be right disappointed…


DH 03.31.05 at 4:13 pm

So using democrat with a definition “defender of democracy” would make me a democrat? Ehw! :) I just don’t like that definition. I never said that there is a “pure democracy”. “by which I guess you mean active Athenian-style democracy, rather than representative?”
The answer would be yes. If you read my previous post I do give kudos to the UK as being in the same form as the US (other than the monarchy). I was using Founding Fathers in a more broad sense UK and US combined.


DH 03.31.05 at 5:14 pm

I hope you guys got the humor. :) On a more realistic note, I was just giving you guys in the UK some insight in the “battle” we face here in the West. Many people who are on the other side in the US falsely apply the UK definition of democrat to the political party Democrat and vote accordingly. Many Democrats thereby market accordingly recognizing the lack of understanding between the multiple definitions that we understand but the average Democrat doesn’t. In the US, many activists are trying to promote “pure democracy” (Athenian style). Particularly Cornell West and others. They seem to not understand the concept you and I understand, in the UK and US, the proper model of Democratic Republic. That is why I mentioned earlier the purpose of the Republic to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. Unfortunately I live in a country where the average person doesn’t understand basic civics that you and I know. :) It is great to be around people who can relate and understand this at a higher level without reacting like some in the US do when I bring stuff like this up. :) Thank you for the clarification with the UK definition. I learned something today. :)


Eugene 03.31.05 at 10:32 pm

Thank you DH for your clarification and you willingness to
learn. In Ontario my great-grandparents and most rural folk would have called it and still call
the noontime meal dinner. I still call it dinner break.



DH 03.31.05 at 11:38 pm

Down south it is called lunch. On a humorous note and I thought this was funny: dinner break is to dinner as democrat is to Democrat (Ewh) (UK) I prefer dinner break is to lunch as democrat is to Democratic Republic. :) HAHA!! Your pal, DH

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