Anatomy of a pasty story

28th March, 2012 9:33 pm

Update: Downing Street have now said the hot pastry item was purchased in Liverpool not Leeds. Ah well Dave, thy all look the same don’t they, those Northern towns? That’s our totally in touch PM right there…


A few weeks ago, after David Cameron’s story about how he hadn’t (but actually had) ridden Rebekah Brooks’ on-loan Met Police horse collapsed embarrassingly, I wrote a brief, flippant post – “An anatomy of a horse story”. I didn’t expect to be doing the same again just weeks later, and definitely not on the subject of pasties, but this Tory government are beyond satire, so here we are…

If you’re sick of reading stories about pasties (and I quite understand if you are), please stop right now. If not, read on…

Firstly, the PM had eaten a pasty recently. His description was rather vivid:

“I love a hot pasty. I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time. The choice was to have one of their small ones or their large ones. I’ve got a feeling I opted for the large one and very good it was too.”

Alas, like “horsegate”, Cameron wasn’t certain for long, as his story came crashing into reality.

The West Country Pasty store in Leeds closed 5 years ago. There now are no pasty shops in Leeds station (the last one tragically closed a few days ago). Then his spokesman was forced to go on the record about his pasty habits, admitting that the offending hot meat and pastry item might not even have been eaten in Leeds at all. Basically, the anecdote – so carefully crafted and clearly delivered – may well have been nonsense.

David Cameron has managed to flip flop on the thorny issue of whether/where he’d eaten a hot foodstuff. If he can’t be straight about silly stories like this, or whether or not he rode a certain horse, then how can we be sure that he’s being straight about genuinely important issues?

It may be silly season. But there’s a serious point here…

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  • Ianrobo

    there is Mark and I will say it, a liar. remember the debates and anecdote after flaming anecdote and all of them found out to be untrue. However as you hint once the silly stuff is known to be a liar the rest gets called into doubt.

    even in the bad times did we have such a bad 7-10 days as this lot ?

    lost a even poll lead to a 10 points behind.

    Hilton not there ?

    • Chrissie

      Seems like after his visit with Obama, he’s trying to humanize himself. Being a Brit living in the US I follow both political arenas – Obama has been running a campaign for “Dinner with Obama” which is doing very well – On Cameron’s return I received an e-mail for “Dinner with David” good luck on that one,  he is no Obama – I wouldn’t even have a beer with the blighter.

    • Hugh

       “…once the silly stuff is known to be a liar the rest gets called into doubt”.

      Silly stuff like being an Arctic Monkeys Fan or fish and chips being your favourite food?

      “even in the bad times did we have such a bad 7-10 days as this lot ?”

      Given that the Tories have slipped at worst on YouGov’s figures 5 points with Labour up one or two, then, yes, I think it’s fair to say they did. Brown’s election flunk in 07 that saw him turn a ten point Labour lead to a 3 point Tory lead is an obvious example.

  • geedee0520

    There is no serious point here at all. Serious points are ’45 minutes to launch missiles’ etc etc.

    WTF does it matter?

    • Brumanuensis

      I agree. Serious points are things like ‘no top down reorganisations of the NHS’ and ‘I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means test it, I don’t think that is a good idea’.

    • Dave Postles

      It’s serious if you hold shares in or work for Greggs:

      ‘The high street chain saw millions wiped off its shares after the budget
      closed a loophole that has meant some hot takeaway foods, such as
      sausage rolls and pasties, escaped the duty.’

      • Hugh

         But I thought you didn’t like tax avoidance?

        • Ianrobo

          the only people avoiding the tax if true are US 

          the VAT rise was passed straight on

        • Dave Postles

          I merely pointed out that it is serious if you hold shares in or work for Greggs.  I do neither.  Nor do I consume its products.  It is, nonetheless, serious for those with shares in or who work for Greggs.  Surely even a LibDem can see that.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            It is not serious for Gregg’s shareholders, as taking a longer look at the share price they have more than beaten the stock market over 5 years, not including 6 dividend payments and a 10:1 stock split in May 2009 on which the divided stock has seen an 18% ROIC.

            I do agree about the Greggs workers.  A 20% increase in the price of a pasty is enough to put people off, and the resulting drop in “footfall” may spell work or redundancy or the closure of a store.  However, what is the proportion of hot food to cold bakeries in a typical Greggs?  I have no idea, but it does not represent 20% price increase on everything.  

            They are also cheery in there, and have a “real people” feel to the store.  My children and I go into Greggs in in our local town centre perhaps once a month for a snack after the Saturday morning music lessons while my wife has a long lie in.  I don’t know about their pasties, but their sausage rolls are good and my children like the eclairs.

          • Dave Postles

            I can’t imagine that the shareholders are terribly happy that millions have been wiped off their shares, regardless of past performance.  Greggs is making representations at Downing St, I understand, so obviously takes it very seriously. 

          • Daniel Speight

             They should have invested £250,000 a little earlier.

          • Alexwilliamz

            They have Greggs in the south? We are all in it together after all.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I suppose we’re in the south, although we’re regionally quite proud of being east, not south.

            We’re not far from Peterborough.  Whenever I go to Peterborough, it’s slightly disconcerting.  All of the shops seem southern, it is less than one hour from London, and yet the street names (often ending in “-gate”) seem northern to me, based on only my 5 years in Darlington.  You certainly do not need to go too far north from Peterborough – perhaps 15 miles – to start hearing northern vocalisation and words like “pet” as a part of speech.  By the time you get to Bourne in Lincolnshire it is (to me) very northern in speech, and yet it looks like a Cotswold village but with unemployment.

            I’d be fascinated to hear what Dave Postles has to say on this, as he is a real expert on regional language and also lives in the East Midlands which is probably the real crossover point between north and south.

          • derek

            And by the time you reach Edinburgh, you’ll be so hungry and order a Deep fried Mars bar supper with a bottle of Bar Bru to wash it doon with.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Followed by a trip to the RI A&E with a coronary…!


            (the worst part of that story is “three quarters of customers were children”)

            That said, in the fridge at the moment is a small tub of mixed Philadelphia Cheese and Chocolate.  My wife returned from Waitrose with it.  I have no idea why, nor am I going to try it.  It seems like a perversion to me.  Nothing wrong with cream cheese, but milk chocolate is the Devil’s work.

            It could at least be bitter, proper chocolate. Preferably with chilis embedded or sprinkled (there is a brand in South America called “Volcano”). Man’s chocolate.

          • derek

            Apparently, sugar levels can help the diet, chocolate is the new slimmers choice? My wife always buys the apple-wood smoked cheese but I told her, her waitrose when she ate that. 

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Boom Boom.

            Shopping habits are odd.  When I do the shopping, I am in and out of Tesco in as little time as possible, list completely ticked, but then face a Gestapo like inquisition at home on whether I had checked the sell by dates on everything to make sure I got the youngest packet, had not missed any offers, and so on. When my wife does the shopping, she spends hours in Waitrose and returns with a bill that makes my eyes pop.  Her purchases are nicer to eat, mine are cheaper to buy.

            We cannot food shop with each other.  It leads to arguments about time versus quality.  Hence, we split the chore.

          • derek

            My wife does all the shopping, I’m completetly hopelessat shopping and I have a city and guilds 706/1 in cooking, my wife can spend ages in the shops, me I’m in and out like a flash but I do tend to questionthe cost so I must start to get involved, I’ll probably end up a bargain buyer.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Here you go Derek,

            Sugar is not part of chocolate.  It is added for European and american tastes.  Proper chocolate without sugar is a real experience.

            The bar at the link below seems very similar to the proper chocolate in South America.  And it is from Keswick so you can order Scottish!


            The Volcano brand comes in four strengths of added chili, the top of which is “Krakatau”.  That is not recommended for children.

          • derek

            I’ll try some, thanks interesting. Here’s an historic link to the coco bean

          • GuyM

            They have Greggs all over th eplace, though I’ll openly admit to never going in them (something it seems politicians are unable to ever do i.e. be honest).

            The point though is that where they are, be it nor th or south, they should not have an advantage over competing food products due to a tax anomaly.

            The fact the left are trying to make something of this shows how ludicrous politics in the UK is getting. I’m sad to say it seems more and more like the US every day.

          • Holly

            Trust me Greggs stuff are way too nice.
            Their sausage rolls are to die for…with a chicken sub roll, followed with either a yum yum, or a custard filled doughnut…Delish!!
            A monthly treat due again tomorrow…can’t wait.
            Greggs, the shareholders, and the pasties will be fine.
            For any Greggs staff reading this…the public love your stuff, your friendly shops and would never desert you..

          • Hugh

            But, overall, being concerned that corporations should pay their full share of tax, you support closing this loophole, right?

          • Dave Postles

            Yes.  All I pointed out was that there is a serious issue, despite the extravagant stalking by some people.

      • Alexwilliamz

        What I want to know, is if the sausage roll has been on the counter for a while and cooled down at what temperature would it deem to no longer be a hot takeaway food?

        • Dave Postles

           It is necessary to compare it with the ‘ambient’ temperature outside, so it depends on the season and current weather conditions.

          • Alexwilliamz

            I sense the need for Gregg’s employees to go on some training in how to solve exponential equations as this will prove critical in their charging of customers.

          • Franwhi

            Gregg’s employees have already had the training I’m sure. If your in-store and you  ask, “Is that sausage roll or pasty or bridie hot ? the staff, on script it seems, always say either “It’s been heated” or “It’s had heat in it ” which I always thought was a strange response – but now it all makes perfect sense !
            Clever Greggs    

      • GuyM

        You mean Greggs had a competitive advantage through other “fast food” retailers through an anomaly in the tax system?

        Because it’s all fair for the fish and chip shop who has to charge VAT on it’s food?

        Oh but I forgot, Greggs and pasty eating is a little too northern and working class for comfort (apologies to those Cornish pasty makers/eaters) for the Labour party.

        • Dave Postles

           Never patronized Greggs.  Don’t eat pasties (vegetarian – although I did work at Pukka Pies for eight weeks between school and university).  Pasties are not ‘northern’ – so your popular ones are Ginsters of Cornwall as well as the Boden-level West Cornwall Pasty Company.  Fish and chips are the original northern working-class meal (you must read John Walton’s book).  I wonder if your take-away hot paninis are VAT-rated.  So, as usual, your comments are irrelevant.

          • GuyM

            Can’t remember ever having a “take away panini” but if I did I’d hope the shop selling it was on an equal footing with other sellers of fast food.

            I’m not really interested in the origins of pasty, fish and chips etc. just as labour spokespeople in the media aren’t either.

            On newsnight the message was attacking a staple of the working class i.e. pasties shows the tores are out of touch.

            If you pick a fight by claiming working class left wing “ownership” of something, don’t get up tight when others point out that you are doing it.

          • Dave Postles

            ‘If you pick a fight by claiming working class left wing “ownership” of
            something, don’t get up tight when others point out that you are doing

            I’ve no idea what you are talking about and I doubt that you do either.  To use your own words, stop stalking. 

        • Brumanuensis

          Guy has a point here actually. Not about the ‘northern’ business, but on anomalies. I think closing the VAT loophole is on balance a sensible simplification. I would get rid of the 5% rate and reallocate items either to the 0% rate or the standard rate. 

        • Alexwilliamz

          Nah lad. Fish & chip supper won’t be competing with the pasty lunch. Different times of day you see. Would an independent baker sell enough pasties to require charging VAT I wonder?

      • Holly

        Is that because of the VAT or the way the media has gone completely overboard with the reporting?
        VAT has been charged on hot take away food for years.
        I hope Labour stay ahead in the polls, and the media continue to report negative stuff about hot pies etc. the majority will be getting on with their lives and figuring out that the ceiling has far from caved in, because of the changes/reforms. Labour had better hope people don’t notice if things are not as dire as the scaremongers told them it was going to be.
        The NHS will still be free at the point of use, pensioners will be getting the same allowances as today and the recent retired will be on the same as the basic rate taxpayer £10k before tax is deducted, Then the £5.30 increase will have been implemented, then in 2014 the changes to the amount of state pension comes in..£140 a week I think, for a single pensioner. The education standards will have begun to take affect, new affordable homes will be available, and large companies will be starting to build their new job creating plants, or recruiting for the new jobs in the car industry.
        Things may look rosy for Labour at the moment, but there are a lot of things not being reported while the media concentrate on hot pasties. Things that people on the ground will notice and might just find better. You never know we may even get some tax cuts.

        The danger for Miliband & Labour is that the country, (despite all the efforts to sabotage, with negative stories, half truths, scaremongering and strikes)will be in a better position in three years time.
        The polls may show Labour ahead, but that does not mean Labour will win the next general election.
        Will we remember these times as a plus for Miliband or a plus for Cameron?
        Only time will tell.

      • codhead

         But surely all Greggs have to do is “employ” more free labour under the Workfare scheme? That should more than make up the difference

  • Mechanicalhamster

    Not a Tory or Cameron fan, but big difference between West Country and West Cornwall companies. Did you not even notice that in the the quote you reprinted? FFS, if you’re going to do this sort of thing, do it properly.

    23 Albion Place Leeds Yorks LS1 6JS

  • Brumanuensis

    I’ve got a feeling I opted for the large one and very good it was too’.

    Read this in a Kenneth Williams voice for full comic effect.

    • Dave Postles

      Titter ye not.

  • Mark Thompson

    “It may be silly season. But there’s a serious point here”

    There really isn’t.

    • Suey2y

      There really is Mark. Because pasties and petrol and even horses get through to white van man. And should make Cameron very very nervous indeed. 

  • Ianrobo

    It is a silly story but when you get headlines in the DAILY MAIL like this

    it just kills your credibility as a right wing leader

    • treborc

       Does that then make him left wing, or have I got my wings mixed up

  • derek

    Aint no doubt it’s plain to see! a PM like you is no good for me.

    He said he wouldn’t change the NHS?   He’s lying
    He said we’d all be in it together?           He’s lying
    He said there be a job in the private sector for every job lost in the public sector? He’s lying
    He said he didn’t ride that horse?          He’s lying
    He said no third runway?                          He’s lying
    He said there would be better schools? He’s lying
    He said there would be smarter spending? He’s lying
    He said he would protect the elderly?   He’s lying
    He said the bankers wouldn’t get a bonus above £2,000 He’s lying

    Does his nose grow larger ever day? 

    • Dave Postles

       I just hate it when the media refer to Sam and Dave.  Sam and Dave, despite their acrimony, were a class act – like you, our Scottish ‘Soul Man’.  Were you the ‘Derek from Glasgow’ who phoned ‘You and Yours’ the other day?

      • derek

        No sorry! more further East.

    • Johndclare

       I love this list, Derek – needs a wider audience.

    • Suey2y


      Please don’t forget this one. It’s so vital. 

  • Amber Star

    You’ve missed the biggest whoppers. The ‘cast iron guarantee’ of a referendum on Europe & biggest of all, the ‘veto’ that wasn’t a veto.

  • Johndclare

    Yes there is a serious point here.  It genuinelydoes not matter when he last ate a pasty, and any fool in the country should be able to see that the Prime Minister cannot just ‘pop into Greggs’ like anyone else.
    So why this ridiculous (and trackable) story about Leeds?  Why just not say he cannot remember and does it really matter?
    It isn’t the story or even if he is lying – the serious point is that we have a Prime Minister who is on the run, who is panicking, and who is making errors of judgement as he tries to wriggle out of his predicament … and that IS a worry.

  • notjarvis

    The pasty story is laughable.

    It really doesn’t matter when a politician last ate a pasty. They should be arguing on the policy alone.

    So much PR fluff it’s laughable, shame the two Eds took part in the circus – should have just ignored the pasty spin and gone for facts IMO

  • Pasty

    Pastys.  Not pasties, which are something very different.


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