SIMON WALTERS: Why Boris Johnson and Co must now listen to Jamie Oliver

Boris Johnson and Jamie Oliver have rarely seen eye to eye when it comes to food. Back in 2006, the future prime minister denounced the TV chef’s celebrated campaign to improve school meals.

A libertarian at heart, Boris loudly backed the mothers who, disgusted by Jamie’s healthier school dinners, passed junk food to their children through the school railings.

‘I say let people eat what they like,’ Boris wrote, adding that if ever he was in charge, he would ‘get rid of Jamie Oliver’.

Well, now he is in charge – and it is Jamie hurling brickbats at Boris and his Cabinet.

The chef has been issuing stern warnings that the Government – desperate to secure international trade deals after Brexit – will let cheap, unhealthy food such as chlorinated chicken swamp the UK after striking agreements with countries such as America.

Back in 2006, the future prime minister denounced the TV chef's celebrated campaign to improve school meals

Boris Johnson and Jamie Oliver have rarely seen eye to eye when it comes to food. Back in 2006, the future prime minister denounced the TV chef’s celebrated campaign to improve school meals

Jamie even compared International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to Britain’s most famous TV wheeler-dealer.

‘As much as I love ‘Only Fools And Horses’, I don’t want a ministerial version of Del Boy selling us short,’ he stated.

Next Monday, the Government’s now-notorious Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons.

The House of Lords recently amended this legislation to include a requirement that food imported under future trade deals must meet or exceed British domestic standards.

Such a move is backed by Oliver, the farming lobby, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, rebel Conservative peers and environmental campaigners.

But Boris and Miss Truss are refusing to give in. They insist existing laws are strong enough and that Jamie’s campaign would tie the hands of negotiators in trade talks with Australia and the US.

The TV chef has been issuing stern warnings that the Government ¿ desperate to secure international trade deals after Brexit ¿ will let cheap, unhealthy food such as chlorinated chicken swamp the UK after striking agreements with countries such as America. Jamie even compared International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to Britain's most famous TV wheeler-dealer - Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses

The TV chef has been issuing stern warnings that the Government – desperate to secure international trade deals after Brexit – will let cheap, unhealthy food such as chlorinated chicken swamp the UK after striking agreements with countries such as America. Jamie even compared International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to Britain’s most famous TV wheeler-dealer – Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses

Boris’s chief No 10 adviser, Dominic Cummings, who is driving the Government’s Brexit strategy, has said the revolt must be crushed.

Famously, Boris is the first to admit that his nasty brush with the coronavirus earlier this year was made worse because, as he put it, ‘I was too fat’.

When Jamie managed to get ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ – spiral strips of processed meat ‘nuggets’ made by food giant Bernard Matthews – banned from schools in 2005, Boris responded in characteristic style.

He ordered an assistant to go out and buy ‘as many slices of Bernard Matthews as you can find’. He then wrote gleefully: ‘We had delicious golden turkey escalopes, containing as much as 38 per cent turkey.’ Now he boasts proudly that he has lost 26lbs in a post-Covid diet – he has again been spotted this week jogging with his personal trainer.

How ironic that, at the same time, Boris is pushing through a law that many believe would weaken food standards and risk flooding British shops, restaurants and takeaways with unhealthier food.

When Jamie managed to get 'Turkey Twizzlers' ¿ spiral strips of processed meat 'nuggets' made by food giant Bernard Matthews ¿ banned from schools in 2005, Boris responded in characteristic style. He ordered an assistant to go out and buy 'as many slices of Bernard Matthews as you can find'. He then wrote gleefully: 'We had delicious golden turkey escalopes, containing as much as 38 per cent turkey'

When Jamie managed to get ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ – spiral strips of processed meat ‘nuggets’ made by food giant Bernard Matthews – banned from schools in 2005, Boris responded in characteristic style. He ordered an assistant to go out and buy ‘as many slices of Bernard Matthews as you can find’. He then wrote gleefully: ‘We had delicious golden turkey escalopes, containing as much as 38 per cent turkey’

Weighed down by the harsh reality of governing, Johnson has ditched many of the populist views he espoused as a columnist.

He even has the chutzpah to mock himself for them.

Announcing a major new investment in wind farms this week, he poked fun at those who had said the turbines couldn’t ‘take the skin off a rice pudding’. He was quoting himself – in comments he made in 2013.

I suggest now is the perfect time for Mr Johnson to disown all those who have lampooned the reforms that have transformed food quality in this country in recent years, including promoting organic produce, reducing sugar content and insisting on clearer labelling.

It’s all very well to say blithely that safeguards should be scrapped so people can ‘eat what they like’ – but Boris himself knows all too well that letting people eat whatever they like can come at its own cost.

Opinion polls, meanwhile, show the public back Jamie, not Boris, on chlorinated chicken. Instead of ‘getting rid’ of Jamie, now the Prime Minister needs to get rid of his outmoded views on food standards – and listen to the TV chef.

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