Personally, I should have no hesitation in identifying my favourite biscuit. It would be Bahlsen’s Choco Leibniz, which is as much chocolate as biscuit, the milk version for preference, though the dark is just fine too. It’s probably made in Germany, so it would, accordingly, be quite impossible for a British politician to identify with. I also like my own biscuits, which are way better than the shop bought sort (may I recommend Bee’s Brilliant Biscuits, a new biscuit book, for beginners?) but again you couldn’t say so if you were a party leader, because it would be too non-populist. I rather applaud Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to the biscuit question, posed – wouldn’t you just know it – by Mumsnet, the voice of the kind of mothers who shop at Waitrose and buy Boden.
He said flatly: ‘I’m totally anti-sugar on health grounds so eat very few biscuits but if forced to accept one, it’s always a pleasure to have a shortbread.’ Yet again, Mr C’s openness is disarming. If he were playing the game he’d have identified chocolate digestives – always safe – and possibly specified that he likes to melt the chocolate on the top before licking it off (disgusting but nice). But he didn’t. He was entirely himself. And of course he got the inevitable response: ‘that’s the most miserable response to the biscuit question I’ve ever read.’ It’s not though. It’s just saying it like it is.
I also liked Mr Corbyn’s identification of Ulysses as his favourite book; it’s possible he didn’t quite understand the connotations of ‘favourite’ as in something you’d like to read for pleasure, as opposed to a work of literary importance which transformed our understanding of how English prose is written. I mean, Dubliners or Portrait of the Artist for a favourite, yes; Ulysses no. But it’s still disarming, because it’s him trying to answer a question honestly rather than answering it in a way to suck up to the most terrifying group of the organised bourgeoisie in Britain. Just as when he said that he doesn’t recognise Ant and Dec; I cheered inwardly when I heard that – I’d barely know them myself to be quite honest.
There are aspects of Mr Corbyn’s leadership with which it is possible legitimately to take issue – his promotion of Diane Abbott, for instance – but his resolute non-populism is one of the most attractive things about him. I look forward to him saying out loud that actually, he doesn’t really know the supermarket price of milk because he buys his in the corner shop, not having enough time for supermarkets. Then I might actually vote for him.
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