Fat-shaming: A new approach to patronising Leave voters

It wasn’t Greggs-fuelled neurosis that made Brexiteers stick two fingers up to the establishment

Brexit is the fault of fat people. At least, according to one expert it is. Peter Ormosi of the Norwich Business School did some digging and found fatties were more likely than thin folk to have put their X next to Leave.

Forget all the grand talk about Brits voting to leave the EU because they’d had a gutful of being bossed about by a faraway oligarchy. Apparently it was actually our full guts, our blubber, that made us have a hissy fit against Brussels. Leave-voting areas are ‘associated with high proportions of obese adults’, says Ormosi. And we know that ‘neurotic’ people are more likely to have eating disorders than ‘conscientious and agreeable people’.

You can see where this is heading, right? Fat people are neurotic, the Brexit vote was an act of mass neurosis, so it makes sense that Leave-voting areas have a disproportionate number of waddling lard-arses. Obesity crashed us out of the EU.

It’s at least a novel take. It makes a change from the babbling about how Brexit was brought by racists, or by old farts who want to resuscitate the Raj, or people who just really want a blue passport. But like all those mad efforts to delegitimise the decision by 17.4 million Britons to reject the EU, the finger-pointing at ‘-neurotic’ fatties is rubbish. A far simpler explanation for the correlation between weight and voting for Leave is that poorer people are more likely to be plump than middle-class people. And we know less well-off people were more likely than flush people to vote for Brexit.

It wasn’t their Greggs-enabled, chip-greased neurosis that made them stick two fingers up to the establishment. It was that they’d had enough of being looked down upon by sniffy experts. You know, like the kind of people who tell them they aren’t sufficiently conscientious and agreeable and that their straining belt buckles are proof of this.

The battle over Brexit keeps veering into food-fight territory. No spat over it seems complete without a serving of metaphors about grub. Brussels accuses Theresa May of ‘cherry-picking’, ‘raisin-picking’ and ‘cakeism’. Cakeism is a dreadful new word, used by no normal person, which refers to the idea that you can have your cake and eat it. The New European, the weekly newspaper for depressed liberals, recently complained of ‘The delusions of cakeism’. Apparently we can have our cake — our vote to leave the EU — but we can’t actually eat it. The thin, goodly portion of society with their kale-based lunches and letters after their names will make sure of it.

A former adviser to Liam Fox has moaned about the government’s ‘packet-of-crisps Brexit’. Our leaving the single market and customs union is akin to ‘rejecting a three-course meal in favour of the promise of a packet of crisps later’.

Some people are taking this idea of a post-Brexit nightmare of crappy food seriously. A meme claiming to capture the reality of Brexit — ‘This one picture perfectly sums up what Brexit could mean’, gushed Metro — showed a table with French wine and Italian bread and German sausages on one side and a tin of cold beans on the other. In short: happy now, plebs? No more imported artisan Euro-food for you! The idea that people think this argument will work on voters who have rather more to worry about than whether their butter was churned on a family farm in the south of France is, well, delicious.

Meanwhile the Remain side stokes fear about Brexit Britons having to eat chlorinated chicken from America or hormone-soaked beef from Australia. ‘Brexit poses huge risk to Britain’s food standards,’ yelled the Guardian recently. Apparently, it is only thanks to the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker that our food is safe. Without him we’ll soon be risking life and limb with every dinner.

There’s often a side order of snobbery in the food-as-metaphor take on Brexit. ‘Brexit Britain ate all the pies’, said one headline when it was revealed that Greggs’ sales have gone up since the referendum. Yasmin Alibhai–Brown says Brexit Britain will be a ‘dull small island’ with ‘shops full of pies and chips’.

Hmm. Pies and chips. I wonder what kind of people that is code for? Look, I like Yasmin, but this is straight-up metropolitan elitism. As is much of the food fight over Brexit. Chill. Let us eat cake.


Close