Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jonathan Meades vs Jackie Ballard

A paragraph in a 2013 interview with Jonathan Meades intrigues:
He loathed the Taunton public school to which his parents managed to send him, a "philistine place" he has described as "hell". It took him, or so he says, 27 years to return to the town, and when he did, he got his revenge by sending it up in one of his restaurant reviews (he was then the offal-scoffing and somewhat porcine restaurant critic of the Times). The locals and its liberal democrat MP went nuts.
Can this be true?

A 1998 story from BBC News shows that it is:
His article has angered residents so much that the MP has demanded an apology. 
Meades asked in The Times article if the restaurant would thrive in the town. 
He questions whether the "three headed sheep shaggers" would come down from the hills to support the establishment. 
And if they did, he continues, where would they park their combine harvester or tie up their cow?
And who was the Liberal Democrat MP who went nuts?
Local reaction to the article has led the town's Liberal Democrat MP Jackie Ballard to table a Common's (sic) motion seeking an apology. 
She said: "I think its a disgraceful slur on the county town of Somerset and also Mr Meades made some crude comments on the natives of Somerset who he thinks are not sophisticated enough to enjoy a good restaurant. 
"I can assure him they are."
And Jackie Ballard really did table an early day motion on the subject. It ran:
That this House deplores remarks made by Jonathan Meades in The Times Magazine of Saturday 4th July regarding the people and town of Taunton; knows that Taunton is the county town of Somerset and it has many natural and man-made assets including the River Tone and the recently enhanced, thriving town centre; recognises that Taunton is at the heart of a rural community and is also the home of Somerset county cricket, the Charity Commissioners, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, The Castle Hotel and many other nationally known organisations and businesses; and calls on Mr Meades to apologise specifically to the people of the Somerset levels and the Blackdown Hills for his obscene and offensive comments and to the people of Somerset for his unwarranted slur on their county town.
There were 11 signatories: Jackie, nine loyal Liberal Democrats and, for some odd reason, Ken Livingstone.

Meades's reaction to the affair? According to BBC News:
Mr Meades said he will not withdraw his comments as they were meant light heartedly . 
He said: "She has no sense of humour, she is after all a Liberal Democrat."
People can be so unfair.


Stephen Barker said...

I miss Jonathan Meades restaurant reviews and the articles he did on less fashionable parts of London.

Gareth Epps said...

It is all true - I was working for Jackie at the time.