Last week, at the Brighton Fringe, I went to see Chris Parkinson‘s new poetry show Unpopular Culture. Chris also appeared as the support act, with his talk on the Eating Habits of Politicians. It’s a great piece, featuring Thatcher’s obsession with eggs, how to eat a hotdog, and that bacon sandwich (which apparently gets several pages in Labour’s internal report on the 2015 election).
One thing I’d not heard about was the story of Teresa May’s local curry houses. Many Indian restaurants have ongoing problems with staffing and are restricted from hiring overseas experts because of Britain’s immigration laws. This has become particularly controversial after last year’s Brexit campaign. One group of restaurateurs supported leave, partly in the hope of allowing more non-EU immigration. Pasha Kandaker, head of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, was reported as saying “My organisation supported Brexit for several reasons but the main reason was to bring people from abroad to help our industry to survive.”
Theresa May’s announcements after the referendum were the cause of much of this disappointment. But this is not the first time that Theresa May has been involved in curry-related controversy. Prior to being Prime Minister, from 2010 to 2016, May served as Home Secretary. She promised to bring net migration below 100,000 but despite this, migration continued to rise.
In May 2011, Theresa May opened a the Innovation Indian restaurant in her Maidenhead constituency. In March 2012, it was raided by immigration officers from the UK Borders Agency, part of the home office. Five suspected illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were detained. Innovation now appears to be closed and the website is down.
A report in the Daily Mirror goes on to say that eighteen months earlier “her favourite tandoori restaurant Malik’s in Cookham, near Maidenhead – where she signed the guestbook and was also pictured on their website – was raided and two suspected illegal workers caught. But the owner was not aware of their status.”
The Malik’s owners obviously bear no ill-will to May for what happened. She is still featured on the restaurant’s website of as part of a gallery of stars who have eaten there – although she appears far below 80’s children’s TV stay Timmy Mallet.
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