Holy lands welcome vegetarian McDonald's

Pilgrims can now eat their McSpicy Paneers.

 

As reported by the Financial Times this morning, McDonald’s is due to open its first vegetarian restaurants in the Indian villages of Amristar and Katra, Sikh and Hindu pilgrimage sites respectively:

“A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites,” said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald’s India.

The article goes on to state that the branches will sell existing vegetarian options, such as the McSpicy Paneer, and hope to expand the range.

McDonald’s, for all its rampant Americanisation of the world, has always been good at giving people what they want. For instance, in Portugal, you can get beer with your meal, while in Indonesia the chicken and rice combo has proved more popular. (Here’s a list of “weird” menu items from around the world). The truth is, McDonald’s responds to market demands because it’s good for business, and is, in this sense, one of the few truly democratic institutions we have (I suppose advertising sways things, but still, we’re not complete idiots). The Amristar and Katra branches allude to the fact that if people really cared about animal rights, McDonald’s would go vegetarian. And while you could argue that the conglomerate epitomises and perpetuates consumerism, I cannot think of a good less snobby; unlike Starbucks, it is not built around a culture of conspicuous consumption, and is one of the few things that is affordable for most (see Andy Warhol on Coca-cola).

That said, McDonald’s does make every high street and holy land a bit less interesting and a bit more like every other place you’ve been.

Photograph: Getty Images
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Sadiq Khan gives Jeremy Corbyn's supporters a lesson on power

The London mayor doused the Labour conference with cold electoral truths. 

There was just one message that Sadiq Khan wanted Labour to take from his conference speech: we need to be “in power”. The party’s most senior elected politician hammered this theme as relentlessly as his “son of a bus driver” line. His obsessive emphasis on “power” (used 38 times) showed how far he fears his party is from office and how misguided he believes Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are.

Khan arrived on stage to a presidential-style video lauding his mayoral victory (a privilege normally reserved for the leader). But rather than delivering a self-congratulatory speech, he doused the conference with cold electoral truths. With the biggest personal mandate of any British politician in history, he was uniquely placed to do so.

“Labour is not in power in the place that we can have the biggest impact on our country: in parliament,” he lamented. It was a stern rebuke to those who regard the street, rather than the ballot box, as the principal vehicle of change.

Corbyn was mentioned just once, as Khan, who endorsed Owen Smith, acknowledged that “the leadership of our party has now been decided” (“I congratulate Jeremy on his clear victory”). But he was a ghostly presence for the rest of the speech, with Khan declaring “Labour out of power will never ever be good enough”. Though Corbyn joined the standing ovation at the end, he sat motionless during several of the applause lines.

If Khan’s “power” message was the stick, his policy programme was the carrot. Only in office, he said, could Labour tackle the housing crisis, air pollution, gender inequality and hate crime. He spoke hopefully of "winning the mayoral elections next year in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham", providing further models of campaigning success. 

Khan peroration was his most daring passage: “It’s time to put Labour back in power. It's time for a Labour government. A Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street. A Labour Cabinet. Labour values put into action.” The mayor has already stated that he does not believe Corbyn can fulfil this duty. The question left hanging was whether it would fall to Khan himself to answer the call. If, as he fears, Labour drifts ever further from power, his lustre will only grow.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.