Professor Tim Newman, Head of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, is seen as the leading voice on the civil unrest which rocked London in August. More accustomed to locking horns with leading figures in Government and academia, Professor Newman today found himself forced deny bizarre allegations surfacing on social networking sites that he had gotten too close to “at least two avocado”.
The chain of events began with a controversial report published by the Tahini Council that contradicts earlier research by Newman who found the London riots were a reaction to police oppression and socio-economic deprivation. While that may be true for the rest of London, the new Tahini Council report claims the riots in Hackney were distinct as they correlate with a spike in the street price of hummus.
“The Hackney riots can be directly attributed to unprecedented increases in the price of hummus which hit over £2 a 100g on the first day of unrest”, the report states before noting similar trends in the wholesale price of baba ganoush. The Council is calling for the removal of all import duties on tahini to suppress street prices of both dips and quell unrest.
Professor Newman, whose researchers have interviewed hundreds of rioters across the capital, rushed to rubbish the report citing the Tahini Council’s conflict of interest and limited credibility in the fields of either criminology or social policy.
Appearing on the Today programme with James Naughtie, Newman fumed, “the Tahini Council report is a transparent, baseless and dangerous attempt to boost sales of hummus on the back of Londoner’s suffering”.
Newman was clearly stunned when Naughtie then read out a preprepared response from the Tahini Council that implied the LSE boffin had worrying conflicts of his own. It read, “the public can decide for themselves why Professor Newman is so determined to ignore the obvious connection between riots and the street price of tahini-derived dips. Will he now come clean on how much funding he had taken from the guacamole lobby and on the exact nature of his personal relations with at least two avocado?”
The clearly flustered egghead’s garbled defence immediately unleashed a wave of suspicion on social networking sites that grew as the day went on. A further three avocado came forward with allegations of harassment against Newman and a sonnet he had penned in his student days entitled Spring nights with guacamole surfaced on Twitter.
As the pressure on him mounted, Newman issued a heartfelt declaration from the doorstep of his London home. “I am not having, and have never had, improper relations with avocado”.The hummus hypothesis has drawn a mixed review from prominent Hackney residents. Christopher Biggens said the warning signs were there after street fights broke out in 2009 over the availability of processo and mint tea. He went on to indulge in an entertaining but largely superfluous anecdote about Joan Collins. Legendary DJ superstars Tears for Queers, who perform a monthly residency in the borough, backed Professor Newman. A statement from the duo praised the rigour and focus of Newman’s research before defending “the man’s right to get funky with any fruit or root he desires”.
The political fallout from the scandal is not clear but it adds to existing tensions within the coalition. Home Secretary Theresa May has been keen to portray the riots as acts of wanton vandalism and has seized upon the Tahini Council’s findings to further undermine Newman’s research that policing and poverty were to blame. Liberal Democrats however are acutely aware of hummus lovers traditional support for their party and will be wary of doing any more to upset it.
Tears for Queers have invited both sides to “dance it out” at their next party in Hackney on 6 January from 8ish at the George & Dragon, 2 Hackney Road, E2 7NS.