Prue Leith with her gong (Getty)

    Prue Leith: a perfect choice for Great British Bake Off

    1 March 2017

    Soon we will be able to sigh with relief. We will have respite from Trump, Brexit and all talk of fake news: The Great British Bake Off will be back.

    Of course, it will be a different GBBO. Following the show’s controversial move to Channel 4, three of its four stars quit, leaving only Paul Hollywood to face the fallout. ‘All the guns were pointed at me,’ he said on ITV’s Jonathan Ross show in December. And guns certainly were blazing away. You might have been mistaken for thinking the BBC was closing altogether such was the furore. Middle Englanders, like me, don’t want their national treasures messed with.

    The angst reared its head again when it was reported Prue Leith, of Leith’s Cookery School and the BBC’s Great British Menu, was to replace her good friend Mary Berry as a judge. She has now been confirmed in the role. On paper, Prue has much in common with Mary, having written numerous cookery books, been made a CBE and displayed a healthy love of bright jackets. Given the evidence, it’s not the possible substitute of Prue for Mary that should get our jellies in a wobble. Replacing Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who said they would not be ‘following the dough’ to Channel 4, is the hardest ingredient to get right in the new version of the show.

    Radio and TV presenter Sandi Toksvig and comedian Noel Fielding have been picked as the new presenters, but they and Channel 4 face an insurmountable problem. The joy of the original programme was borne from the way the team took it on with no preconceptions. Mel has even said that she needed the money to pay her mortgage and admitted that neither she nor Sue thought that it would work: ‘A show about baking? What?!’ So Bake Off had a happy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-bloomers naivety to it.

    Love them or hate them (and some do find them annoying), the pair of university friends have dictated the GBBO brand with a mix of innuendo (‘Get those ladyfingers soggy’), gentle flirting (‘Keep an eye on your jugs’) and genuine kindness (many moments of extra hands on piping bags).

    From the ripples that met the possibility of Prue taking over from Mary, you’d have to deduce that the presenting role will be an even more poisoned chalice. The vicious social media commentariat will surely take no prisoners when Toksvig and Fielding get started in the Bake Off tent.