A Cabinet minister has defended the lavish banquet laid on as part of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state visit to the UK at a time of hardship for millions of Britons.
Buckingham Palace guests dined on grilled brill – a delicate flat fish – followed by pheasant from the Windsor estate and, for dessert, iced vanilla parfait with caramelised apples.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the visit will help boost trade and growing the economy is the prize which matters – “whether it’s pheasant on the plate or pie and mash”.
The King hosted the banquet, saying “welcome” in six languages spoken in South Africa to Mr Ramaphosa.
Strictly star Johannes Radebe, originally from South Africa, was among the 163 guests at the white-tie dinner, joining broadcaster Zeinab Badawi, interior designer Kelly Hoppen and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh.
Mr Stride told LBC: “Right at the heart, actually, of our soft power, as it’s often called, is this ability to project our sense of history and pageant.”
Asked about the timing, with people struggling with the cost of living, Mr Stride said: “I would see it in terms of engaging with our most important trading partner on the continent of Africa, with whom we have very important ties of history and trade and economics.
“What really we want to come out of this is a stronger and healthier UK economy – and that benefits everybody.
“I think, whether it’s pheasant on the plate or pie and mash, I think if that can be achieved, then that’s the biggest prize.”