Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Jamie Oliver row

This may sound well off-topic, but bear with me.
I used to like Jamie Oliver but I grew weary of him.  Not his fault, really.  He's done a good job with his Fifteen Foundation, and with his campaign to improve school food, and lots of people like his cooking and buy his books.  I tend to go off people when they sign an advertising contract, but that's just me.  However, he has waded into a controversy he should have stayed well clear of.
If you don't know what I'm talking about you should read this Telegraph article first.  Those of you who are unemployed will note the old cliche about television sets.  If you are on benefits YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A TV SET.  Never mind that you bought it when you were working.  Never mind that it was given to you.  Give it away.  You're living on hand-outs, you don't deserve it.
He's promoting a TV show on "money-saving meals".  (Ironically, you won't be able to see it if you've got rid of your TV!)  He "urged families to go to their local market rather than supermarket".  (What do you mean, you don't have a local market?)  The Child Poverty Action Group is allowed to make a measured but very sensible response.  Not all the 234 comments are quite so sensible.
Then read this response in the Guardian.  This angry piece by Alex Andreou attracted nearly 10 times as many comments, and I'm not surprised.  It's a very articulate rant, and I agree with him.  Another response, which I also agree with, comes from Joanna Blythman in the Telegraph again.  She focusses on the food question, and she makes the point that, "It may indeed be possible to live on £10 of food a week, but in an affluent Western economy, why should anyone have to?"
Just in case he hadn't got enough publicity, Oliver gave an interview to Good Housekeeping magazine in which he opines that migrants are needed to staff all the restaurants because they are tougher than young British workers, who can't do the long hours.  The Independent headlines this view as "Young Brits are lazy", while the Express, of course, loves it.
It's all part of the pattern; the picture is painted of feckless, idle people.  There's a row, but no one's mind is changed.  And TV companies and wealthy celebrities feed off other people's misery.


  1. Oliver sprang to fame in the 90's alongside the likes of Nigel Kennedy and Guy Ritchie. Some people accused them of being posh boys trying their damndest to be workin' class lads.

    Oliver has a point, but only partly. Yes, it is be possible for some to source low cost food that's tasty and healthy. However it only makes sense if one can prepare it from scratch. Not everyone can cook. That bit of fish, steak and those potatoes won't fillet, fry, boil, bake, mash and poach themselves. And it also helps if living close to a cheap-ish source of food such as a market or farmers market. Not everyone does.

    Yes, you can grow your own spuds, carrots and tomatoes. However, not everyone has a garden. The most they'll be able to manage is a few herbs in a window box. Allotments are another option of course. However, there is a long waiting list for such space in most local authorities.

    As for the TV cliché. Yes, cliché, as that is what it is. A very lazy one at that!
    People such as Jamie Oliver need to realise two things.

    Firstly, what is an expensive TV? A 19 or 20 inch flat screen TV can be had for less than £100 these days! A decade ago they were £1,000 with less features! And he should also have the basic intelligence to realise that people often purchase these items when they are in work. And then are made redundant or stop work due to ill health. Are they then supposed to sell or even give away their personal effects simply to appease the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun?

    Secondly, TV is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. I have a stack of DVD's. I wait until they go down in price to around 6, 5 or £3 rather than buying them at HMV's £14.99 - £19.99. And much cheaper still than going to the cinema.

    If Oliver is that concerned with people eating junk food, perhaps he should have a word with his conscience after slating supermarkets for selling said junk food one minute and then pocketing over £1 Million a year for being the face of Sainsbury's for many years.

  2. "There's a row, but no one's mind is changed." That's what's so endlessly frustrating about it. I'm at a complete loss at what can be done.

  3. I've worked most of my life so far from leaving school. I have to admit at times it really annoyed me when certain people seemed to be living comfortably off benefits, doing what they wanted when they wanted, spending money that I'd paid in taxes. I'm not saying all unemployed are like this, but unfortunately there are people out there like this and they give the rest of us a bad name. I watched the channel 4 programme scint, one family got a massive 3D TV (while on benefits) when they could've easy opted for a smaller cheaper TV. The father drank all the time, but then complained they didn't have enough to feed their kids.

    1. I'm not sure of the point of this. You seem to recognise that you're wrong - are you now unemployed? - but you've still fallen for the propaganda. "There are people out there like this." Like what? The family portrayed on Skint or whatever it was called were absolutely not typical, but the image sticks.

    2. I was talking about people I know too, the show was just an example. But the person I'm talking about that I know had his rent paid, utility bills were included in the rent, he didn't pay a TV license so apart from food the rest of his benefit he could spend as he wished. He also did some work cash in had on the side. This does happen.

    3. So the person you're talking about must have been living in a hostel or something similar. And working illegally (you reported him? No, thought not.) But although this "does happen" it isn't typical.
      Let's stay on the point.

    4. A bit of an opposite view,for most of my life I have been employed and paid well,I semi retired and started a small business(Bar and Grill) while running this,I first encountered people on benefits,decent people trapped in the system,most approached me asking for part time work,but trying to move from benefits to work was complex and had so many conditions attached that working part time actually cost them money.

      Did I have disdain for those people that "Worked the system" and got paid cash on the side? It is a doubled bladed sword,it is illegal but who hired them? the same hard working Taxpayer that complains about "Scroungers"??? Well yes,but as long as they were getting it on the cheap they were willing to turn a blind eye,have I ever paid cash? sadly yes,but in my defence seeing a person able to provide a little extra for their family that is scrapping by was worth it.

      I have now been unemployed for a while,depressed and desperate,it is not about screwing the system,it is about survival!

    5. 'Certain comfortably off benefits...spending money that I'd paid in taxes.'

      1. You have scapegoated the unemployed through the actions of one person.

      2. The overwhelming majority of people claiming JSA get £70.

      3. The tax you pay does NOT pay for my JSA. I have paid for it myself when I paid taxes and NI when I was working. What YOU pay in taxes and NI helps pay for what YOU take out of the system e.g. sickness at work and unemployment insurance, medical treatment, a pension The NI system protects us all.

      Your ignorance and prejudiced views are allowing the Tories to undermine the entire social security system. This will have disasterous effects FOR ALL US, because we ALL rely on it, some more than others but, still, without the welfare state the middle-class would be annihilated.

      Ask yourself this, if the welfare state was destroyed could I afford to pay for my childrens education, could I afford to pay for all my families medical treatment, could I afford to save for a private pension, could I afford to save for enough to cover illness or unemployment.

      Whatever we pay in tax and NI it does not even begin to cover the cost of what we ALL take out of the system.

    6. I am currently unemployed and have applied for many kitchen jobs without success. Maybe this is because many pub and restaurant owners (like Jamie) are prejudiced against unemployed applicants? Maybe this is why we can't find work?

    7. While I agree with most of what Anonymous 06:00 says (for pity's sake, adopt a pseudonym) I think your statement that "The overwhelming majority of people claiming JSA get £70" is probably wrong. I don't know what the figures are, but there are a great many claimants with dependants who get more. And critics include housing benefit, unfairly.

  4. Jamie Oliver is a useful idiot.

    he lambasts people for not cooking well and budgeting for food effectively, which is to say cheaply (though how one buys mussells pasta and tomatoes for 60p i don't know). Then he derides them for buying white goods. Surely if I save money I can then use that for something nice, like a tv?

    But no, he's a useful idiot for the government becuase they can then argue people are receiving too much on benefits.

  5. I find Jamie Oliver’s comments regarding mothers and young people very frustrating and tedious, I thought someone like him would know better.
    Yet again, poor mothers are judged and demonised by having a large TV.

    I don’t know where this obsession with TV’s comes from. It’s almost like the poor aren’t allowed a form of electronic entertainment. “Large fucking TV’s” have also reduced in price as technology ages.

    I Pads are often more expensive than TV’s, and so are other electronic entertainment devices. You can watch TV on an I Pad, PC or a laptop. However, the widescreen TV seems to enrage the right-wing press like nothing else.

    The ever commercialised world we live in is responsible for ready meals and supermarket-dependency. The idea that every town has a glorious fresh food market doesn’t exist. I would also like to know how farmer’s markets are cheaper – what pampered world is he living in?

    I live near a rural area, and food from local market farmers is not “cheap”. The poor have little choice but to shop at supermarkets. It’s not like there is healthy competition in the food market, either.

    Here is a man who took millions from Sainsbury’s to advertise ready meals and the like, but now has the audacity to complain that the poor eat too many supermarket ready-meals - the man totally devoid of any principals. When Oliver took all of those pay-cheque’s from Sainsbury’s, I never heard him slam supermarket ready meals – hypocrite.

    Oliver’s smearing of young British people was also entirely fact-free, with only a few unfounded anecdotes to justify his rant.

    Via the National Apprenticeship website, I see a vacancy at Jamie’s Italian in Bristol. The pay? £79.50 a week for up to 40 hours a week.

    And Oliver wonders why young people don’t jump at the opportunity to work at his restaurants? By anyone’s standards, that is pathetically low pay.

    It’s all very nice for a cushy millionaire like Oliver to expect young people to live on £79.50 a week, but unlike him, young people must live on the pay they receive. Oliver complains that young people are lazy and don’t want to do long hours, is he surprised when he expects people to live on £79.50 a week?

    Mr Oliver as a cushy millionaire is in fact trapping young people into poverty with this level of pay. Oliver had the audacity to question whether modern poverty exists, but then offers that sort of wage to a young person – irony-free….

    I like the fact that Jamie Oliver was not born with a sliver spoon in his mouth with a million pound inheritance. However, his comments shows that he has been rich and pampered for too long. When was the last time that Oliver had to live on a tight budget?

    This is not an attack on the rich, however, I wish the wealthiest in society like Jamie Oliver and Iain Duncan Smith would stop patronising and lecturing the poor. It is easy for such men to pontificate from their positions of wealth, however, they don't experience the struggles that normal people have to encounter on a day-to-day basis.

    1. Be careful of your language.
      The job you quote is an apprenticeship, and that's the going rate these days. If it's a genuine apprenticeship (and I'm sure it is) then many would think it was worth doing.

    2. Apologies - I was actually quoting what Oliver stated in his Guardian interview.

      Yes, the position is for a Level 2 Apprentice Chef. Whilst is not uncommon to see apprenticeship positions paying £80 per week, it doesn't mean that it is right, either.

      Some young people might not have parents to live with, and would have to rely on such a wage. Oliver questioned what modern poverty was, with mothers and their "large f***** TV's". However, in-work poverty is no better than demonstrated by a Jamie Oliver paying £80 a week for up to 40 hours a week.

      I actually appreciate a lot of what Mr Oliver has done. However, he really didn't need to make these comments. His rhetoric and statements are full of contradictions.

      A lot of apprenticeship positions pay at least £100 + a week. I doubt increasing that weekly pay to about £150 a week would not be too much for Jamie Oliver. Even that is below the minimum wage, but far better than £80 a week.

    3. Apprenticeships pay poorly as the remainder or what would be a wage is used to pay for the training. Last time I check most NVQ or BTEC level 2 courses cost upwards of £6000 a year.

      There are also currently 11 applicants for each and every apprenticeship placement in the UK. So the idea that nobody wants to do them because they are underpaid is ill informed.

      While I disagree with much of what Jamie says, his comments are being taken out of context. He didn't claim that British youngsters were lazy compared to European workers in order to demonize British workers. He did it to lift stereotypes about lazy migrant workers.

      Working in recruitment I can tell you much of what he says is sadly the view held by many small business owners in the UK. A great deal would rather employ eastern European migrant workers for their perceived strong work ethic,I'm not saying this is right, but it's a fast growing trend. Employers see Brits as lazy, it's an unfortunate stereotype, but it's certainly out there and having a growing affect on the employment market.

    4. No employer is going to say outright that they would rather employ "eastern European migrant workers" because they can pay them less, although this is certainly the case in many instances.

    5. In response to Anonymous at 05:30 on 30 August,

      You make a few ill-informed statements yourself, ironically. You say that there are 11 people applying for “each and every vacancy”.

      No, that isn’t true. Data from the National Apprenticeship has shown that there are 11 people on average applying for each vacancy – that is much different compared to what you claimed.

      I never claimed that nobody wants to do apprenticeships. Again, this is a false claim.

      I used to regularly look on the NAS website for Apprenticeship websites before securing work, and still do browse the site for vacancies. I lost count of the number of vacancies which had to be re-advertised with closing dates being extended for 2 months, presumably because applicants weren’t found.

      If you really work in recruitment, you will know the sad reality of apprenticeship recruitment. Many “learning providers” (who get the funding) are mainly interested in 16 – 18 year olds. This is because this age group gets full government funding, whilst older groups only receive partial funding for an apprenticeship.

      Colleges, specialist training organisations and employers therefore prefer applicants who can receive full state funding. A training consortium I dealt with openly admitted that their clients (the employers) only wanted applicants between the 16 – 18 age range, so the employer wouldn’t have to pay anything.

      Whilst it is encouraging to see apprenticeship applications rising, I wouldn’t be surprised if the growth in applications is coming from 16 – 18 year olds. Sadly, this excludes those older than 18 years of age who could be very capable and motivated about completing an apprenticeship.

      As for your claim that employers have to pay “upwards of £6000 a year” to fund an apprenticeship, this is also a bit dubious. You seem to misunderstand the funding model of apprenticeships.

      The Skills Funding Agency will fund the administration of a qualification at a “Learning Provider”, then, the learning provider will organise the required training of the apprenticeship qualification for the employer.

      Employers don’t have to pay anything like 6k for the qualification. In fact, “learning providers” are much like recruitment agencies and try and chase employers to hire apprentices. Thus, the learning provider has great incentive to make hiring an apprentice as attractive, non-complicated as possible. It should also be noted that most employers prefer to use “learning providers”.

      Right wingers like to talk about “making work pay”. Well, they should focus on the culture of low pay rather than benefits alone.

      There are too many intermediate apprenticeships that pay between £80 - £100 per week on full hours, often with the full responsibilities of a full-paid employee. Even if that same apprentice at Jamie’s Italian who was paid £79.50 a week was paid £200 a week, even £200 a week would not be the minimum wage. However, it would be a big increase for a young person who is supposed to live on the former.

      Would it break Jamie Oliver’s bank balance if he paid his apprentice £200 a week? Or is Jamie Oliver suddenly broke? The wealthiest in society seem to like pontificating that the poor are lazy, but pay the absolute lowest wages – and then expect a certain quality of staff.

      Whether it is illegally paid carers or young apprentices, it is low pay that is holding Britain’s poorest back – not benefits.

  6. Oliver sounds a bit like a newsagent who took part in a radio phone in on poverty a few months back. His (the newsagent's) rather simplistic point was that people on benefits regularly frequent his establishment and spend all their benefits on cheap booze and cigarettes.

    Let's accept this newsagent was telling the truth. Surely he could take a moral stand and not sell such products. He'd be appeasing his conscience and doing his customer's health and wallets / purses a favour.

    Oliver could do the same by promising never again to promote or endorse a supermarket that sells unhealthy produce! Or would that be too much to expect from him?

  7. If Jamie Oliver thinks having a TV is bad, I wonder what he thinks of unemployed people owning cars, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles?! If he gave his comments any thought, he would have mentioned all of the above. The fact of the matter is, people spend hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds a year on maintaining their vehicles. What next? Get rid of all forms of personal transport?! Don't make me laugh!! As for his comments about spending time with families and seeing how they live (in poverty), that is HIS CHOICE. Does he really know what it's like to HAVE to live that life?? I seriously doubt it. No one wakes up and thinks to themselves "oh, I know, I'm going to live on benefits from now on.", it just doesn't happen. These "celebrities" think that just because they're famous and influential, that they have carte blanche to make these stupid remarks about how other people live or should live and to be perfectly honest, I'M SICK OF IT!! Open you're fricken eyes and smell the coffee. The world isn't as black and white as you might think.


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