To Sum Up The Argument: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE CHOICE!”

Felicity Lawrence rants at the failure of the coalition to just listen to her and ban all fast food now, god damn it!:

The announcement by McDonald’s this week that it will put calorie labels on its products in all its UK restaurants gave Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, something to boast about.

Who cares if an opposition politician gets to boast?

Aren’t you supposed to be all about the results, Felicity?

It gave McDonald’s a burst of positive publicity too. No mention that the fast food giant’s enthusiasm for one part of Lansley’s new “responsibility deal” on public health does not extend to another of the deal’s voluntary pledges, to cut salt in products.

Which would be a waste of time, and is based on nothing more scientific than the government’s discredited alcohol units…

Typhoo, meanwhile, has signed up to the pledge to remove trans fats from its tea. Tea, in case you are wondering, does not contain fat, trans or otherwise.

It’s a bit pointless expecting companies to not try to comply with the barmy requirements you loons keep coming up with, no matter how much they may think they are pointless.

The coalition government has chosen to cast public health as a matter of personal responsibility. It takes the classical liberal view that individuals should make their own choices, free from state intrusion. Nudging us to healthier choices is OK, but regulating is not.

And as we see from your last entry on my Big Blog Of Blockheads, you aren’t all that keen on the consumers being left to manage their own affairs.

On this liberal reading, the fact that your risk of being obese relates closely to your socio-economic status is not a question of social justice but a problem of the feckless poor being too ignorant or spineless to make good choices.

Oh, no! That can never be!

This is a dangerous misrepresentation. It conflates the right of the individual to freedom from interference with the right of business to the same freedom from government constraint.

Ah, as if dear Felicity isn’t endorsing constraining individuals all throughout this column…

It ignores the fact that business intrudes on our choices constantly with its powerful marketing and sales strategies.

Yes, the familiar refrain: We are just helpless to resist the siren call. Only the smart people – like Felicity – are strong-willed enough not to eat and drink themselves into an early grave…

It refuses to acknowledge that industry’s interests – to maximise consumption and profits – are in direct conflict with public health needs. We need them to sell less of their junk foods and alcoholic drinks. They need us to keep buying them.

Who is the ‘we’ and ‘us’ there? After all, no-one’s forcing anyone to buy anything, are they?

Most troubling of all, it abrogates the proper role of the state in protecting the vulnerable and addressing problems that threaten to become overwhelming collective burdens.

Problems caused by choices that Felicity doesn’t think people ought to have the option to make.

If as the Foresight report found, the burden of obesity and diet-related disease is likely to cost the UK £50bn by 2050, when does collective good outweigh the right of the individual?

Why don’t you ask the Communists? They should know the answer, they worked at it for years and years…

The current crisis of public health is not in any case about the collapse of personal responsibility but a reflection of a toxic environment in which making healthy choices has become increasingly difficult, particularly if you are on a tight budget or work long hours.

If you are on a tight budget, then surely you’re more likely to be eating less meat and more vegetables? And if you’re working long hours, surely you’re likely to be burning off any excess calories?

Contrast the coalition approach to the stark message from the medical journal the Lancet, which has just published a major expert series on obesity. “The conclusions are unambiguous. We need collaborative societal changes in many aspects of our environment to avoid the morbid consequences of overweight and obesity.”

The Lancet, eh? Yes, well, I’m with The Devil on the subject of just what are the medical profession’s responsibilities, and crucially, what are clearly NOT their responsibility too…

Most health experts now agree.

‘The science is settled!’

The government does not even have the fig leaf of a scientific basis for its approach. The House of Lords science and technology select committee report on the behaviour change theories favoured by the Conservatives found there was no evidence that “nudges” work.

Well, does your alternative work?

Anyone remember how Prohibition went? Anyone? Bueller?

14 comments for “To Sum Up The Argument: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE CHOICE!”

  1. September 12, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Who cares if an opposition politician gets to boast?

    Er… Andrew Lansley isn’t an opposition polly… 😈

    • Woman on a Raft
      September 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Isn’t he? He doesn’t behave like much of a Conservative. Easy mistake to make.

      • September 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

        I meant ‘opposition politician’ to Felicity’s undoubted preference, but WoaR has the right of it, come to think of it!

        • September 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm


      • September 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

        Well, he isn’t exactly alone in that… 😐

  2. john in cheshire
    September 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Is it possible to just dismiss Ms Lawrence as a crank, or does she have any real influence?

    • September 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      Could the answer be “yes” to both?

  3. September 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Tran-fats in tea? Gosh. Whodathunkit?

  4. Woman on a Raft
    September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I would just like to make it clear that if anybody is toying with the idea of getting between me and a lawfully-purchased bar of Dairy Milk, that would be most unwise to the point of foolhardiness and they should reconsider. Carefully. Thank you.

    • September 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      Not if I get to it first.

  5. Rossa
    September 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    The Daily Wail is at it over the decision by Heinz to reduce the salt content in HP sauce.

    And this telling paragraph:

    “….But to meet Coalition targets for cutting our salt intake – blamed for thousands of premature deaths a year – the company quietly reduced that to 1.3g.

    That is despite the fact that the firm also makes a reduced salt and sugar version with just 0.9g of salt per 100g.”

    So why bother reducing the salt in the traditional variety in what is only really a condiment anyway? How much HP does anyone eat with their food? The reduction is hardly going to have any effect at all. Certainly not a measureable one.

    Next they’ll be reducing the sugar in ketchup by taking it out of the tomatoes (not the added stuff) or have they already done that? I give up.

    • September 13, 2011 at 5:30 am

      “So why bother reducing the salt in the traditional variety in what is only really a condiment anyway?”

      The clue’s in the title of this post… 🙂

  6. Robert Edwards
    September 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

    At this rate, we’ll all be keeling over through Cholesterol / salt deficiency.

    • Thornavis.
      September 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Well at least we’ll be dying in a state of grace, our lips unsullied by profane foodstuffs.

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