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G8 summit: Gordon Brown has eight-course dinner before food crisis talks


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G8 summit: Gordon Brown has eight-course dinner before food crisis talks

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor in Hokkaido, Japan

Last updated: 2:03 AM BST 08/07/2008

Gordon Brown and his fellow world leaders have sparked outrage after it was disclosed they enjoyed a six-course lunch followed by an eight-course dinner at the G8 summit where the global food crisis tops the agenda.

The Prime Minister was served 24 different dishes during his first day at the summit – just hours after urging the world to reduce the "unnecessary demand" for food and calling on British families to cut back on their wasteful use of food.

Mr Brown and his wife Sarah were among 15 guests at the "blessings of the earth and the sea social dinner".

The dinner consisted of 18 dishes in eight courses including caviar, smoked salmon, Kyoto beef and a "G8 fantasy dessert".

The banquet was accompanied by five different wines from around the world including champagne, a French Bourgogne and sake.

African leaders including the heads of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Senegal who had taken part in talks during the day were not invited to the function.

The dinner came just hours after a "working lunch" consisting of six courses including white asparagus and truffle soup, crab and a supreme of chicken.

The lavish dining arrangements – disclosed by the Japanese Government which is hosting the summit in Hokkaido – come amid growing concern over rising food prices triggered by a shortage of many basic necessities.

On the flight to the summit, Mr Brown urged Britons to cut food waste as part of a global drive to help avert the food crisis.

Opposition politicians and charities condemned the extravagant meals.

Dominic Nutt, of Save the Children, said: "It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal to eat.

"If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that."

Andrew Mitchell, the shadow International Development Secretary, said: "The G8 have made a bad start to their summit, with excessive cost and lavish consumption.

"Surely it is not unreasonable for each leader to give a guarantee that they will stand by their solemn pledges of three years ago at Gleneagles to help the world's poor. All of us are watching, waiting and listening."

Mr Brown arrived at the G8 summit held on the holiday island of Hokkaido in northern Japan on Monday morning.

He arrived on a plane chartered from Texas, America, which had to fly empty for thousands of miles to pick up the Prime Minister and his entourage.

Unlike other countries, Britain does not have an official plane to transport the Prime Minister.

The lavish dining will embarrass Mr Brown, who has made tackling the global food crisis a key priority.

On the flight to the summit, the Prime Minister urged British people to cut food waste and "reduce unnecessary demand".

He said: "We need a global plan to deal with rising food prices that are affecting millions of families in Britain. That's why I am proposing that we take action to both increase the global supply of food and reduce unnecessary demand.

"If we are to get food prices down, we must also do more to deal with unnecessary demand, such as by all of us doing more to cut our food waste which is costing the average household in Britain around £8 per week."

Talks between world leaders at the summit will focus on dealing with soaring food and oil prices.

There is also hope for a breakthrough on protracted talks to secure a new global trade deal.

However, the leaders are facing criticism amid allegations that pledges for development aid promised for the third world at a previous G8 summit in Scotland have been watered down.

The Prime Minister's spokesman declined to comment on the menus.

Story from Telegraph News:


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I'm sure if someone bothered to crunch the numbers here it wouldn't be much of a story at all. Sure it's bad form and pretty stupid of them to schedule this but it must be .000001% of the world's population that eats like that, and only a few times a year, arguably.

The wasteful use of food in this context has more to do with day to day consumption on the part of 100s of millions of people, not a handful of diplomats who have obligations as visiting heads of state.

But yes the marketing genius that came up with this itinerary deserves a promotion...

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Very embarrassing for Brown, but I find it hard to blame him personally for it or to doubt his sincerity with regard to tackling the food crisis.

Forgoing the dinner organized by the hosts - who do not evidently share the same concerns - would have been an equally embarrassing incident, and probably counter productive as it would decrease opportunities to elbow-rub and have off-record conversations with other powerful and influential heads of state.

Was he even given a menu beforehand, such that he could review and lodge polite but determined reservation?

I totally agree with Phorbesie that it is crass and bad form. But I imagine if I were Brown, I'd be sitting down to lunch and dinner, getting the pleasant formalities out of the way, and all the while thinking "oh, shit."

Making a point of skipping out on the dinner after the lunch would have been very gutsy and quite probably would have scored him political points at home, but would have also been excessively insulting and would likely have hampered his overall influence. Tough call. I personally would have loved to see him do the former rather than just go with the flow, but there is that whole when in Rome thing and inertia. Disappointed at an opportunity lost to make a grand gesture, but find it difficult to really hold any hard feelings about it.

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8 courses doesn't mean 8 meals, they were probably those ridiculous tiny plates or extremely well produced and presented delicacies. These people represent their nation to the leader of another... of course they try and impress each other with the best from their own culture and taste. Bush, Brown and Steve all seem to have joking relationships with one another, do they know the leaders of these African countries the same way? Generally the African leaders are put in the position of making demands from these white guys we elect, maybe they wanted to have lunch without being hounded ;)

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