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Let Them Eat Cold Pasties!

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The look on George Osborne's face said it all. "When was the last time you had Greggs' pasty, Mr Osborne?" asked the Labour MP John Mann at a Select Committee hearing on the budget. Of course most people wince at the idea that Greggs has captured the headlines, as the economy struggles to recover and household budgets are squeezed. They shudder at the idea that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was prompted to discuss his pasty eating habit. Never mind an escalating human catastrophe in Syria and the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran: the most important issue this week is the 'pasty tax'.

David Cameron, who is always keen to come across as 'normal' and blokeish, noted: "I go to Cornwall on holiday, I love a hot pasty. I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or large ones. I have a feeling I opted for the large one - and very good it was, too."

It's at this point when reality began to resemble some ridiculous farce; the moment when David Cameron's Communications Director desperately phoned into Tuesday's Newsnight to claim that, yes, 'Dave' did in fact like pasties. It's the sort of ridiculous story the political satire The Thick of It has become a master at portraying - although one wonders where satire can go if 'pasty gate' is the new reality.

Indeed, as The Sun was quick to recognise, this is the government's 'let them eat cake' moment. It's symbolic of something much wider. (And just in case you needed a visual image for this reference, Sun model, Megan Hall, stood outside the Treasury dressed as Marie Antoinette, plying officials with hot pies.)

Cameron's attempt to deal with the issue by expressing his love of pasties flopped. It was revealed that the [alleged] pasty eating PM had not, in fact, visited the West Cornwall Pasty shop at Leeds station a few weeks ago. In fact it turned out he was telling porkie pies: the chain has no outlets at Leeds station and hasn't for several years.

And then everyone's favourite CEO / Tribune of the People, Ken McMeikan boss of bakery shop chain Greggs, invited the Chancellor to open a new branch of Greggs in the City, so he can see "hard-working families and people who will be affected by his tax." McMeikan is now a political heavy weight - being courted by the ever hapless Miliband and Balls, who quickly jumped onto The Sun 'Who VAT All the Pies' bandwagon and got snapped munching away on pies at a Greggs branch in Redditch.

All this sounds very silly, but history pivots on small, often symbolic, moments. Despite their apparent irrelevance at the time, these moments often highlight some wider truth. So, while the French Revolution of 1789 was the result of a cacophony of political, social and intellectual ferment, we nevertheless remember the Ancien Regime's 'let them eat cake' PR gaffe and Louis XVI's out of touch diary entry for the day the Bastille was stormed on July 14: Rien (Nothing). Similarly, we will remember this week in politics as the one in which the humble Greggs pasty shook the government to its very core.