The sandwich restaurant Pret A Manger is accused of harbouring centrists. Those are words I never thought I would type, but these are mad days. A Corbyn supporter called Aaron Bastani, the author of a book called Fully Automated Luxury Communism — or, as wags call it, Luxury Space Robot Communism — has accused Rory Stewart of being unfit to be mayor of London because he likes Pret A Manger. It is, in Bastani’s mind, a sandwich-themed agent of evil, indicating a deeper evil which may or may not have something to do with wizards. I did not know that Pret A Manger’s smoked salmon sandwiches (they are quite good, but I am a bourgeoise, so what do I know?) and mediocre coffee could be so perilous to civilisation, but I can safely be ignored. Even so, I marvel at its reach. Who knew the enemy was so devious? He is literally everywhere. He is in your snack.
It began on Twitter, where Bastani typically emits his Luxury Space Robot Communist thoughts. ‘Rory Stewart doesn’t have a favourite London pub, he spends his time “going to Pret A Manger”,’ he typed in a tweet that, for me — and possibly only for me — seethed with homoeroticism.
Even so, it is dangerous. Does Bastani not know that words build scaffolds? Punctuation too? Then came: ‘Utter Fraud.’ Stewart tweeted back: ‘Why does that make me a fraud?’ Bastani replied that Stewart’s attachment to ‘an identikit chain café means you have no emotional connection with London. I like politicians to have a meaningful connection with where they represent.’ He cannot possibly mean his beloved Jeremy Corbyn, whose Islington constituency is obviously bulging with Trotskyites, if only they knew the word.
What is obvious from this stupid row is that Luxury Space Robot Communists have even less connection to Londoners than Rory Stewart (Eton, Oxford, Afghanistan, Neverland), which is amazing, because Rory Stewart looks like a medieval cadaver that is sad it is dead. If he had a personal theme tune, it would be by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is also obvious that millions of Londoners eat at Pret A Manger every day, at Starbucks and McDonalds, and also at Subway, even if it is disgusting. The Luxury Space Robot Communist exposes himself, as he always does when he speaks aloud, not as Karl Marx in Future Space but as a member of the elite media class. Because he is stupid. He yearns to belong at Shoreditch House, among the twats and the artisanal carrots. Like Charles Foster Kane, he talks about the people as if he owns them.
Seeking saboteurs in identikit chain cafés — I prefer to call them generic, but I am literate — is quite a finessed form of careerism but, as Martin Amis says, every form of human activity has its fans by now.
I go to the Pret A Manger in Covent Garden, but it looks as pleasing as ever: bright, shiny and bustling with souls who sought only snacks but instead, presumably, taste the dust of neo-liberalism in their mouths. Perhaps I detect a faint scent of Blairism among the fittings and the spotlights; can eggs, if interfered with, be centrist? Are hens? Is straw? If your politics are a desolate skip filled with nonsense, I suppose so.
I have always enjoyed Pret A Manger’s attempts to outshine its competitors — crayfish has the potential to dazzle in the late capitalist dystopia, and it should be allowed to, if you have compassion. I would look elsewhere for the enemy, perhaps in the soon-to-be-nationalised Pizza Express. All this I ponder as I eat my decent bourgeois smoked salmon sandwich and drink my inferior bourgeois coffee. I say — let it live, Comrade, for it does no harm. Rather, purge thyself.