…just a shame the politician in question has been dead since 1898.
Yes, this is BBC Two’s fabulous ‘The Great British Bake Off‘ whose mini in-programme historical documentary — which gives viewers a little break from the egg, flour, caramel, tears, competitiveness, and vanilla essence — this week highlighted the role of sweet-toothed W. E. Gladstone in lifting the Sugar Tax in 1874 and making good cheap sugar affordable to the working classes.
This was an application of ‘economic liberalism’ (I think he would have said ‘free trade’) that made possible in Britain the popular culture of baked goods, sweets and treats (and indeed sugar in tea) that we all now know and love. It probably also made possible our tradition of home-baking itself. Good old Gladstone!
As one reviewer pointed out, given our modern scares about health and obesity, in any other documentary this would have made him the villain. But that is not the world of #GBBO.
Actually the mini-documentary was such a puff piece for Gladstone that I wondered whether the BBC’s rules on impartiality were being broken. It was a bit, well, sugary!
It also completely ignored the role of the the slave trade in the story of the sugar industry. But then discussion of such things isn’t really part of the world of #GBBO either.
- See the Gladstone flavoured episode of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ (available on iPlayer until 1 November 2012). The Sugar Tax mini-doc is about 1/3rd of the way through.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.