Amol Rajan: Pastygate is exposing Osborne's difference from us all

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The Independent Online

Back in the day, miners used to take pasties down the mine. At one end they would have the meat, along with onions and vegetables; at the other, jam.

The crusts of the pasties weren't actually part of the meal. They were designed to be thick and uneven, so that miners could hold onto them even when their hands were covered in greasy coal. Scoffing down pasty crusts is a modern tradition, just like eating rice with fresh fish. Years ago in Japan, rice was tightly packed around the fish, to preserve it when transported inland; but the modern lustfor carbohydrates demands that the we eat the rice too - a shame really, given that if we didn't we would have more room for the tasty and nutritious protein on offer.

Thick, throwaway crusts are just one feature of high-quality pasties. Others are: a high meat-to-potato ratio in a well-seasoned mix; a light and thin exterior; gentle spicing; and, ideally, a temperature of around 60 degrees on initial consumption. All of which is news to George Osborne. The Chancellor didn't deserve to be pilloried, as he was in headlines yesterday, for saying in parliamentary questions that he can't remember the last time he had a pasty in Greggs. Neither can you, if you're honest. But just as #grannytax was trending on Twitter after the Budget, so what has been dubbed the #pastytax is threatening to expose how unlike the rest of us is the man who used to say, with admirable chutzpah, "We're all in it together."

 In the television age, political momentum swings according to images, not arguments. Except that this is a post-television age, of viral videos and social media, in which the importance of images is yet greater.  Often those images are most damaging when they do not exist in picture form, but hover in our minds, as a result of facts in the news. The image of David Cameron riding a police horse called Raisa at the suggestion of Rebekah Brooks is one such image.

Even when they accept (which they too often don't) that Osborne's economic strategy is a complete failure, political journalists tend to deify the Chancellor as a masterful politicaltactician, often because he briefs them at length. In fact, Osborne, who was completely outmanoeuvred by Nick Clegg over the Budget, failed to deliver a Conservative majority in very favourable circumstances two years ago.

What we have seen over the past week is the early erosion of his undeserved reputation. That is the real significance of #pastytax, a rare instance of upper crust George being admonished unfairly.