There's still one last chance to unite Brexiteers and Remainers again – it's time for the Great British Bake Off
When we seem to be so seldom cooking from the same recipe book, the "soggy bottom" language we can all understand
It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean when MPs leave parliament so we spend all summer squabbling among ourselves until they return to take over. For the last nine years, late August has held another significance: the return of The Great British Bake Off.
Rising like the perfect Victoria sponge, Bake Off has become a ratings juggernaut of the most unlikely flavour since it arrived on our screens in 2010. In 2014, 12.1 million people watched the Bake Off final – that’s more than tuned in to the World Cup final in the same year. The comparison between these two events is actually rather fitting. This summer we saw the World Cup temporarily unite at least one of the UK’s four nations, distracting English people from the political divisions and uncertainty that have been turning people against each other.
On the pitch, none of these issues mattered. That's also true inside the now iconic Bake Off tent.
When Brexit divisions seem deeper than ever, Bake Off is perhaps the only thing that can unite our politically polarised nation – no doubt the secret of its unexpected success. Bake Off provides the recipe for a cohesive, outward-looking society at a time when Britain seems so confused about its identity. It is not only the perfect mixture of sweet and savoury, combining pantomime seriousness with a typically British brand of friendly competition, but also of the best of Vote Leave and Remain.
With its Union Jack bunting and emphasis on traditional baking techniques, Bake Off panders to a certain Brexity nostalgia. Prue Leith, who replaced beloved Mary Berry on the judging panel after the show moved to Channel 4 last year, is every inch the eccentric matriarch. She supported Brexit in the EU referendum and this week even suggested banning packed lunches in school so children learn to cook. But, just as they do every Christmas with their grandparents, young Remainers are happy to agree to disagree with Leith. As with Berry before her, she is a comforting presence. Her accidental reveal of the Bake Off winner last year on Twitter, hours before the final aired in the UK, only endeared audiences to her further.
But despite the show’s judges and subject matter playing to a more traditional, or dare I say it stereotypically “Brexit”, crowd, Bake Off also has something for the Remainers. With a diverse cast of all ages, including a banker, techno DJ and former air steward, this season’s crop of contestants personifies “multicultural Britain”. Presenter Sandy Toksvig is one of our nation's most famous out lesbians and a co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party. Her co-presenter, Noel Fielding, who confessed that he doesn’t even eat sugar, is apparently the reason why “vegan week” will be a fixture in this year’s contest – a sign of changing times that will no doubt bring comfort to the 48 per cent.
Bake Off might not be curing cancer or negotiating Brexit for us. But an hour of innocent, cookie-with-a-gooey-centre escapism every week can’t be a bad thing for broken Britain. The show’s line up has changed more frequently than the Sugababes, but its lexicon of “soggy bottoms”, “showstoppers” and “even bakes” remains.
When we seem to be so seldom cooking from the same recipe book, this a language we can all understand regardless of our political views – even if it revolves around something as trivial as cakes.