the snacks that fuel elections

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An army, as Napoleon declared, marches on its stomach and political fighters, whether foot soldiers or generals, are no different. But as the final hours of the UK general election campaign speed past, a morning TV interview revealed that Rishi Sunak’s favourite meal was . . . and this is almost too gloomy to type . . . a sandwich. “I’m a big sandwich person,” the still-just-about prime minister quipped flatly, adding that he would probably have a pork pie from the butcher in his Yorkshire constituency on election night.

As he perched there, gamely taking his turn alongside Britain’s “most tattooed woman” (the other special guest), this stunningly dull reply offered a final insight into what has gone wrong for the hapless premier. The bathos of his answer — his inability to take advantage of a softball question on the daytime sofa — seemed to replicate the evaporation of widespread goodwill that greeted his arrival 18 months ago following the Johnson-Truss era.

A sandwich? It’s baffling. Even Liz Truss might have managed a Hannibal Lecter-style joke about eating the lettuce who was her rival for longevity in power — with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Not since Ed Miliband’s ill-fated decision to sit alone munching an inelegantly large bacon sandwich on the campaign trail, have on-camera snacks offered such an illustration of the diner’s lack of electoral appeal. One can only hope that on Friday, as the result hits home, the condemned Sunak will eat a hearty breakfast — perhaps some Huel, the Silicon Valley meal substitute gloop, in his £180 mug.

For me, the scent of victory remains the aroma of reheated curry as it wafted through Lib Dem campaign headquarters in 1997: a doubling of the party’s MPs was at least partly enabled by donated crates of Indian ready meals from a food magnate. This week, a last-minute YouGov poll on whether Lib Dem supporters think the party colour is yellow or orange (yellow edged it) was missing the point: in those days, the answer was turmeric.

I was working in a basement war room near the microwaves: the entire six weeks was perfumed by tandoori spice mix. Maybe it’s a political sense memory, but as a journalist my go-to snack food for political endurance tests — from conference season to this latest marathon — is still samosas. Portable, tasty, and full of calorific value, they are way more exciting than the trail mix and bananas TV presenters seem to favour. Mishal Husain is so tired of BBC colleagues recommending bananas for stamina that she appealed on air for alternatives.

One on-screen anchor I know is being urged to pack cheese — it’s high protein and therefore brain food, but you have to worry about strange dreams merging with extreme reality if people in the studios and green rooms doze off around 4am on Friday, when a historically outlandish result might emerge.

Diets inside party HQs do seem to have improved over the years — I’m told the current Lib Dem war room menu has included lasagne, fajita nights and plenty of fruit.

As for Labour, Sir Keir Starmer also loves Indian food — the party leader once said his last meal would be tandoori salmon with pilau rice and naan bread — but he also suffers from travel sickness. As a precaution, he has been spared too much time on the battle buses, notorious for a combination of too much coffee and no proper meals.

Very sensible, as befits his pitch to voters. President George HW Bush could tell you that nausea is an unfortunate photo op. Let’s also gloss over Dominic Cummings’ boast that he loved political campaigns because of the “hot women and beer and pizza” — even the thin gruel offered up as policy debate in this campaign is preferable to the picture that conjures up.

Video: Sketchy Politics: the extinction election?

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