Village People: The Potato Council survives, but it could soon be crunch time
Saturday 16 October 2010
Quango upon quango has been consigned to the bonfire, but the Potato Council lives on.
This is good news, and not just because tabloid hacks need the easily ridiculed organisation.
It is the most scoffed-at public body, although potato growers take it seriously enough to stump up more than £6m a year towards its running costs.
Actually growing and selling the things is not small potatoes. It is a £3.5bn-a-year high-risk, capital-intensive industry which could be on the verge of serious decline. It has been doing well recently because the credit crunch has encouraged people to eat cheaper food.
But one day the recession will end, and the industry will have to adjust to the fact that the young would rather stuff themselves with pasta than fresh, home-grown potatoes. Two-thirds of those sold in our shops are consumed by people over 45. If this continues, the British potato will – forgive me – have had its chips.
This was why Thursday was National Potato Day, the climax of a publicity campaign part-funded by an £800,000 EU grant. It included research showing that a man in a supermarket queue with fresh potatoes in his shopping basket has a better chance of scoring with the woman next to him than a bloke with a trolley load of lager.
Sorry, I cannot go on and keep a straight face. They're right. Potatoes are ridiculous.
Khan paints the town red, Ed
Given how much Ed Miliband wants to be rid of the nickname "Red Ed" – "Come off it, let's start to have a grown-up debate," he said in his conference speech – it is a bit unfortunate that his former campaign manager, Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary and rising star of the Labour front bench, held his 40th birthday shindig last night in a Soho restaurant called The Red Fort.
Praise for Shrek proves an education
John Hayes, the Shrek lookalike minister for Further Education, had a slippery start to the political season. Answering questions in the Commons on Monday, he got so excited when a Tory MP told him that he is "popular" – not everybody's view, by the way – that he jumped to his feet to answer a question meant for the Secretary of State, Michael Gove. "Am I up?" Hayes asked, sensing that something was amiss. "I am intoxicated by the exuberance of the situation." He waffled on until the Speaker gently told him to sit down and let his boss take over.
Geeky peer tunes into digital future
It is commonly assumed that the House of Lords is full of people who call a radio a "wireless" and do not know what a remote control is for. But the former Labour MP, Lord Maxton, aged 74, is a bit of a geek. This week he explained to their lordships how, with an iPad and AV lead, he was able to pick up Minnesota Public Radio while he was a passenger in a car on a Scottish motorway.
You may ask why anyone, even an ageing peer, should want to hear Minnesota Public Radio, but that is beside the point. With curiously poor timing, the Coalition Government is committed to annoying the owners of 33 million car radios and 100 million analogue radios in the year of the next general election, by going ahead with the switchover to digital.
From 2015, nobody's car radio will work without expensive conversion equipment. What Lord Maxton's experiment demonstrated is that, in a car, it is easier to get Minnesota radio over the internet than to get the BBC on DAB.
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