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A chin-wag with Jess Phillips, MP

MP Jess says her pre-Bake Off baking experience has mainly been disaster based. But having taken on the UK’s most powerful people in Parliament, how does the politician think she will fare against Paul and Prue?

So, Jess: can you bake?

No, I have no baking experience. It’s not a skill that I have. When I was a kid I used to bake with my mum and my dad but I can’t say they were big bakers. My mum was terrible at making birthday cakes. They always came out flat as a pancake.  I used to cook with my family, with my parents. I feel comfortable in a kitchen because I grew up around lots of people who cooked a lot.

What is your personal signature dish?

I really do not know! I recently moved house and there’s rhubarb in the garden – I didn’t grow it, I just moved in and it was there. So I’ve been making a lot of rhubarb crumble because I’ve got to get rid of the rhubarb. And also rhubarb vodka!

Are you a Bake Off fan?

I’m a massive Bake Off fan. I’ve watched since the very beginning. I’ve watched every series, including Extra Slice… I sit down with my family and we watch it together every week.  It’s on when I’m in London at Westminster, so we record it and watch it when we’re all back together on a Thursday. It’s like a ritual for the family, a bit like going to church!

Have you had any major baking disasters before?

I once made a quiche, put it in the oven and when I went to see if it was done there was just an empty pastry case on the shelf and scrambled eggs just cooking into the bottom of my oven, which took absolutely ages to get rid of. It stank my oven out for ages. Now I always put a baking sheet under anything! Never forget, always put in a baking sheet.

What’s your greatest strength in baking?

My strength is remaining calm and doing something I never ever do when I cook (I’m much more of a ‘throw it in, see how it tastes’) – really strictly follow the instructions and don’t just think I can whack a bit more sugar in/whack a bit more butter in. It’s actually like science. I’m by nature a very slapdash person. I think my skill taking part in this is very calmly following the instructions.

Why are you supporting Stand Up To Cancer?

My dad was diagnosed with chronic leukaemia when I was eleven years old. Twenty six years later he is still alive thanks to research that was done into medicines and treatments for people with his cancer. He just wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for people donating money to cancer research. He’s strong as an ox at the age of seventy five; when I was eleven I thought he was going to die. Also I have seen the downside where things don’t get research. My mum died when I was in my twenties from leiomyosarcoma, which is quite a rare cancer, and there wasn’t the same level of research. So I have seen literally in my own life the difference it can make when money is invested. I know how important it is to ordinary people’s lives, because I still have my dad and I don’t have my mum.

If you were a baked good what would you be?

Gosh! I want to be like a feminist cake. What’s the most feminist cake? Is there one that has a woman’s name? Like a Garibaldi but not about an Italian dictator.  I’ll be Ladyfingers because I’ve got lady fingers and I like to get them in all the pies, and I love a trifle.