Question Time: Prue Leith discusses Brexit in 2018
Beloved baker Berry was part of the BBC cooking show for six years before it moved to Channel 4 with a new line-up. Berry admitted that she “avoided being asked” whether she would join Paul Hollywood and leave the corporation. The 85-year-old was replaced by Leith but Bake Off has struggled to win over the public.
Bake Off’s final episode on the BBC drew in more than 14 million viewers in 2016 – but until this year, Channel 4 has struggled to replicate its success.
When the show relaunched one year later around 7.7 million tuned in, which was still several million less than the BBC.
However, last year’s competition broke records for the broadcaster when an average of 10.8 million people watched.
The figure was Channel 4’s biggest hit since recent records began in 2002 and was the most-watched non-film broadcast since 1985.
Mary Berry was praised for not weighing into the Brexit debate unlike Bake Off successor Prue Leith
Mary Berry is an iconic chef beloved by many in the UK, including Kate Middleton and the royals
Despite the show’s success now, immediately after Leith took over from Berry many fans struggled to accept her.
The new judge caused a greater divide between herself and the public when she declared she was a Brexiteer in 2018.
Leith said: “I think I’m about the only person who’s old enough here to remember that there was a life before we were in the EU.”
She admitted to having “dithered” before making her decision, because she was torn between the “intelligent” arguments on either side of the debate.
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Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc chose not to leave the BBC when Bake Off moved to Channel 4
Leith was part of the 52 percent of the public who voted for Brexit in 2016 and has opposed calls for a second referendum or ‘People’s Vote’.
She explained her reasoning behind joining the Leave camp during an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time.
Leith said: “I ended up voting for Brexit but I dithered and dithered for ages because there were really good arguments on both sides.
“And there are really intelligent people on both sides [and] good people on both sides.
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Mary Berry’s successor Prue Leith joined Paul Hollywood in Great British Bake Off on Channel 4
“It’s such a pity that we have everybody fighting each other.”
Leith argued that the nation should “stop fighting about the referendum” and “get behind” then-Prime Minister Theresa May.
She encouraged the Conservative Party to back Mrs May too and “show some loyalty” because “they voted” for her.
Leith continued: “I think what we need is her doing the best she can.
“I think she’s a strong woman and I think she could do it well and [with] everybody else pulling with her.
Great British Bake Off had it’s best viewing figures on Channel 4 after more than 10 million watched
“We’re going down the Brexit road, so could we all just agree to make it work? Apparently not.”
While Leith’s comments were met with applause from the Question Time audience, she was torn apart online.
One Twitter user described her as “hard right-wing” and others argued that she had no right to delve into politics.
A first wrote: “I didn’t have an opinion on this up until now: but Prue Leith is appalling. Mary Berry forever (Though I do not give a toss about Bake Off).”
A second added: “‘Prue Leith’. Stick to baking, hun.’”
Mary Berry stars in trailer for Best Home Cook
A third wrote: “Prue Leith has no clue what she is talking about, she seems to just waffle… Not surprising for someone who makes cakes.”
Another added: “Prue Leith comments so far are a bit like a beef wellington with a soggy bottom.”
Others praised Berry for staying out of politics and for keeping her views strictly about baking.
She returns to screens tonight on BBC show Celebrity Best Home Cook, where famous people try to impress with their kitchen skills.
Mary Berry hosts the new BBC show Best Celebrity Home Cook, which airs tonight (Monday)
This week, the wannabe chefs will be tasked with making the “ultimate Sunday roast”.
Ruth Madeley, Gareth Thomas and Desiree Burch have been eliminated from the competition so far.
That leaves Fern McCann, Ed Balls, Tom Read Wilson, Shobna Gulati, Karim Zeroual, Rachel Johnson and Ed Byrne to battle it out.
Mary Berry’s Celebrity Best Home Cook airs at 9pm tonight on BBC One.