Paul Jacob

Take this as no defense of the Earl, though. The man was no great statesman. Of him it was said that “seldom has any man held so many offices and accomplished so little.”

Worse yet, he prosecuted journalist John Wilkes for the obscenity of his parody of Pope’s “Essay on Man.” This was a very political act, for Wilkes was hated for weightier political reasons, not for his bawdy poetry. And this was a very personal act, for Wilkes had pulled a prank on Sandwich by bringing a baboon decked out in cape and horns into the ceremonies of their favorite mutual organization, the Hellfire Club. (Who says history isn’t fun?)

But at least the Earl’s politics took place on the grand stage, and about issues traditional to politics. If history repeats itself, here, with a member of the English nobility getting involved in sandwiches and suppressing liberty, this time the repetition is Marxian.

And by this I mean, of course, the only sense in which Karl Marx’s historicism is not a waste and a bother — his notion that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. The farce, here, is the very idea that sandwiches should be of any concern to politicians . . . other than when playing cards.

The Baroness — “Trixie” to her friends — may or may not be a cardshark, but she's a fish in the very brine of modern busybodism, getting along swimmingly in those waters. That she’s a Conservative and yet also a busybody will surprise some. Not me, though; I think it’s been pretty well established that busybodism is a besetting ism on both the left and the right.

If only she were just complaining about what she has to eat while working with her other high muckety-mucks. “While the House of Lords continues to use medium-sliced — and very nice — bread in its sandwiches, even the House of Commons has moved to thick bread,” she said recently, while on duty and presumably not while drunk. “Surely at a time when we want to reduce people’s consumption, there should be more pressure from the Food Standards Agency, or one of the many departments the Minister speaks about, to take us back to normal-sized bread instead of these super-sized sandwiches.”

Ah, the old government-agency-to-the-rescue ploy. We’ve got so many of ’em, why not put ’em to work?

Politicians actually think like that.

While most citizens would rather have their representatives not lording their diets over them, but, instead, slicing budgets a tad thinner, there does remain that vocal minority who just wants “something done.”

As for me, I just want something to eat. And when I think about food, I don’t want to think about politicians — I’d tend to lose my appetite.

So let’s get into the thick of it and be done with it. It is traditional to slice the tougher, mealier breads thicker than the Wonder Bread varieties. And it is known that these thicker, less-processed breads are better for you. So maybe the trend noticed by the Conservative Baroness is a good thing: people are eating a bit more of better bread, bread lower on the glycemic index and all that.

Truth is, though, we should each of us be free to have his or her opinion about the proper thickness of bread.

And, further truth, this sandwich brouhaha came to light not because it is all that big of a deal (the House of Lords being about as useful as the fourth nipple on a steer), but because the Baroness left most of her constituents incredulous. This became news because Britain’s journalists and voters realize that it would be best to keep politicians, and any raised or leftover nobility, out of the issue of bread thickness altogether.

No matter how you slice it.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.