An unexpected campaign has started to make celebrity chef and Ready Steady Cook star Ainsley Harriott the new face of the £20 note. A Facebook page has been launched, and a petition set up on change.org calling for Harriott to replace Scottish economist Adam Smith. At the time of writing, around 3,500 people had signed it.
The campaigners don't offer much in the way of explanation as to why Harriott should grace the £20 note. The mission statement on the petition merely says: "Ainsley Harriot is an oily god, it is only right he gets his glory on the £20 note."
Some of those who have signed the petition have added their own comments, which offer some hint as to how seriously they are taking the campaign. One said: "Ainsley Harriott is more than a TV chef, he's a national treasure."
Another added: "This is perhaps the most important issue facing Britain and its people today. We stand on the precipice, with greatness before us, and ruin behind. What will we choose? We will choose Ainsley." And one said: "Ainsley Harriott's face should really be on all paper money. But I will settle for this."
It comes at a time when the Bank of England has been asking members of the public to nominate people from the world of visual art to become the face of the £20. They are expecting anyone from painters and sculptors to photographers to be nominated between now and 19 July, and will announce the new face of the £20 next spring.
It seems that some people feel that instead of having someone from the high-brow art world, the new face ought to be someone more accessible. In among the comments on the petition are those who believe the process is too elitist, which is why the notes are dominated by white men.
The last time there was an outcry over banknotes was in 2013, when it was announced that Elizabeth Fry would be replaced on the £5 note by Winston Churchill, so that there were no longer any women (other than the Queen) on British banknotes. The bank responded by announcing that Jane Austen would feature on the £10 note.
It's not thought that this particular outcry will be so well received. The bank has a history of ignoring petitions, including one in 2012, which called for Alan Turing to be put on the £10.
They would be particularly worried about choosing any popular modern celebrity, because there's a risk that it would open the floodgates for other popular figures with somewhat less gravitas.
As Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier and Director Notes puts it: "The depiction of historical characters is an integral feature of our banknotes, providing an opportunity to celebrate individuals whose accomplishments or contributions have been of lasting benefit to the United Kingdom. It is essential that the choice of characters commands broad public respect and legitimacy."
But what do you think? Is it so important that our banknotes are reserved for historical figures and high-brow intellectuals? Or would you like to see Ainsley Harriott on the £20? Let us know in the comments.
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