Sheffield’s ‘Sausage Roll Socialism’

The Greggs sausage roll might not belong in the nativity, but it does belong in public ownership according to a social media campaign that started in Sheffield.

A love of the high street baking chain’s sausage rolls inspired a trio of millennials to launch the unapologetically left-wing Twitter page/socialist movement/meme, The Nationalise Greggs Service.

 


First and foremost, the National Greggs Service came about because we like Greggs. Greggs’ produce, whether it’s sausage rolls, humble pasties, or even sausage and bean melts, have always been intended as hearty, affordable foods for everyone, and the idea behind the NGS simply extends that principle further. Everyone should be able to eat food, regardless of means, and everyone should be able to eat Greggs food,” said one of the people behind the NGS.

The founding trio, who are all Sheffield locals in their 20s and wish to remain anonymous, started the social media fanfare in a pub in August as a bit of fun.

Yet since their first foray into pastry-based memes the idea of nationalising Greggs to make pasties for all has spread into the mainstream.

 

It started when the left-wing Guardian Columnist, Owen Jones, started sharing the Nationalise Greggs Service’s content after meeting one of the founders.

Since then, the idea of a nationalised Greggs has been brought to the fringes of the discussion on nationalising industries under Jeremy Corbyn’s emboldened Labour Party.

At the Young Labour Policy Conference at Warwick University in October, a student asked Mr Corbyn: “Should we nationalise Greggs and Wetherspoons?”

The Labour leader responded tactfully, saying that he would prioritise water, rail and other public services, while pasties and pints were not “essential”.


Since Mr Corbyn’s comments, there has been a considerable backlash against the idea, which ironically has helped move the NGS from the world of internet pasty memes to legitimate policy discussion.


Further increasing the NGS’s legitimacy, soon after the conference in Warwick, Progress – a centrist Labour lobby group – issued a rebuttal of the idea claiming Labour was being forced into ‘fighting the wrong battles.

The article claims: “Today, as we face life beyond Brexit and live through the greatest revolution in technology since the steam engine, there are some who want to argue – even if jokingly – about nationalising Greggs. It speaks volumes about the sorry state of Labour.”

An opinion piece in The Independent stated how Progress’s intervention was self-defeating, and pointed out the article helped shape the discourse on public ownership – including Greggs.

The NGS said about Progress: “It’s demonstrative of the right of the party’s lack of humour. The idea that fostering political humour, or cultivating moments of collective joy through memes, might help enthuse people to vote for, if not actively support Labour, is something they’ll never willingly accept.”

Any meme’s purposes is to annoy those who don’t get it and to unify a community around those who do. The NGS is a joke that enrages its opponents for its ridiculousness and gives its fans a sense of legitimate unity.

For the trio who run the NGS, the idea that they are starting a conversation about nationalisation and hunger in the country is exciting.

We fundamentally believe that basic services, like food production and distribution, should be nationalised and conducted for people not profit. Many Greggs stores, in fairness, do give their leftovers to shelters and food banks, but food poverty is a systemic issue that cannot be combated by charity alone-it will need a radical solution, and nationalising Greggs and other food suppliers is one such,” they said.

The NGS is keen to promote just how legitimate the problem of food poverty in Britain. At any one time 17% of adults worry about running out of food, our nurses are being driven to using food banks because of successive real-terms pay cuts; for some people these facts make it hard to justify why food is produced for those who can afford it, rather than those who need it.

Humour through memes and viral social media is one of many ways to debate the issues we face as a society.

Some people fail to grasp this new generational method of activism and engagement, but they appear to have forgotten that sausage rolls have been at the forefront of public debate before.