It has become something of a trend - millionaire cultural lefties popping up to tell poor folk that they are paying too much for stuff. The other day it was Vivienne Westwood railing about capitalism while charging over a grand for a handbag. Now it's 'masterchef judge' Jay Rayner - the doyenne of Guardian-reading food snobs - who is telling the poor they should pay more for their dinner:
Families need to pay more for food and have become 'far too used to paying too little', Masterchef judge Jay Rayner told MPs today.
The food critic and author told a parliamentary committee that food was too cheap to support British farmers.
He said: 'We pay too little. We're far too used to paying too little. And the only way we have at our disposal, I think, to secure a robust food supply is by investing in British farming and that does mean consumers pay more and look for that label.'
Rayner even explained that food poverty was nothing to do with real poverty:
'Yes, we do need to pay more for food but if you focus on a thing called food poverty then you're not going to be looking at the bigger picture involving the whole population.'
So we're to have more expensive food because British farmers can't compete with farmers somewhere else in producing the cheap food that people want to buy. And Rayner - who has no qualifications on this matter besides having a famous mum and a cushy job being paid by newspapers and magazines to eat overpriced restaurant food - latches on the familiar set of supposed concerns - the size of the supermarkets, the concept of 'food security' and some sort of wibble about sustainability.
Food security is simply protectionism rebadged - we invent scary stories about how somehow we'll not be able to feed ourselves because of all that cheap food made somewhere else in the world and use those stories to justify trade barriers, protectionism and subsidy. Then, because the Asians and Africans who could produce all that fabulous cheap food don't due to protectionism, all Jay Rayner's pals on the Guardian and Channel 4 wangle trips to see the poor black people and to explain why evil western capitalism has condemned them to an eternal struggle against absolute poverty.
Let's be clear. Cheap food is a good thing. There is nothing at all that is wrong with you and me not having to pay as much to put food on the table. It is gross and immoral for rich people like Jay Rayner to say to poor people that they should have less food because they'd rather protect a few uneconomic farmers. Rayner has never had to make the choice between putting the heating on or having a meal - yet he wants to force that choice onto still more people. And Rayner isn't scratting on a Zambian farm hoping that the rains don't fail so he can feed his family - the other sort of uneconomic agriculture that the protectionism he espouses acts to sustain.
Rather than Rayner's snobbery and environmental protectionism, we should embrace the opportunity of cheap food - break down the barriers, encourage mass production and deliver nore people the wonderful benefits that come from cheap, abundent food in fantastic variety that we (mostly) enjoy in the UK. Above all can we stop saying - on clothes, on food, on energy - that making it more expensive is a good idea. It really, really isn't.