First They Came for The Smokers, Now Labour Plans Government Approved Diets

First They Came for The Smokers, Now Labour Plans Government Approved Diets

It is reported today that Britain’s Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has a new policy document out which aims to improve the health of the nation, the measures include: 

  • Minimum priced alcohol aimed at “preloading” (pre-gaming) teenagers before going out;
  • A ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sport;
  • A watershed of post 9pm for advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt aimed at children and the quantities allowed in foodstuffs;
  • Smoking ban in cars;
  • Encouraging half of the population to take regular exercise within ten years;
  • A ban on supermarkets selling “impulse” products such as drinks and sweets near the checkouts;
  • Today’s children to be the first to be smoke free;
  • Financing skateboard parks BMX tracks and other sports courts.

This initiative is the work of Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham who appears to have the support of the Shadow Cabinet with the exception of Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna who views it as ”anti business and interventionist.” Burnham sees it as a fundamental component of the party’s 2015 election manifesto.

They say on alcohol “Up to 35 per cent of all A&E attendances and ambulance costs may be alcohol related and up to 70 per cent at weekend peak times.”

On obesity “In England, 62 per cent of adults and 28 per cent of children aged between two and 15 are overweight or obese, costing the NHS more than £5 billion a year.”

On exercise “lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyles are associated with a wide range of physical and mental health conditions.”

Currently sport sponsorship includes eleven Premiership football clubs, tournaments such as the FA Cup, rugby union and horse racing. Alcohol Concern estimates that the drinks industry is worth £41.6 billion and out of £800 million spent on marketing, £300 million is put into sport.

Burnham may point to tobacco sponsorship of Formula One if asked whether this will have a long term effect on sport. The ban seems to have had little impact on the budgets of the teams.

What the electorate think of the Labour’s plans the ballot box is probably the most definitive test. The “nanny state” was a phrase first coined by Conservative Iain “One Nation” Macleod in his column, written in The Spectator on December 3, 1965, where the state is over bearing, needlessly intruding on personal choices and infantilising adults. It seems voters have grown tired of unsolicited advice.

A YouGov poll asked in August 2012 “Politicians and civil servants are well-equipped to make personal decisions on my behalf.” 65 percent disagreed with only 9 percent agreeing.

The free market Adam Smith Institute commented “…there is still considerable self-confidence among the British, coupled with a determination to make decisions for themselves instead of having them imposed by politicians and bureaucrats.” 

Many would argue that people are exercising self restraint. Smoking among adults is down from 62 percent of the population in 1950 to 21 percent in 2013. Since 2005 to 2010 – as noted by Chris Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs – average consumption of 2005 and 2010 average weekly alcohol consumption has decreased 20% from 14.3 units to 11.5 units  a week.

On street disorder the blogger Dick Puddlecote applied for a Freedom of Information request on arrests for public drunkenness in the London area. In 2001 there were 12,138 and by 2010 had dropped by nearly two thirds to 4,516 arrests. 

While Labour’s aims maybe worthy, making it a policy that the voters are going to embrace will be the hard part. Drinkers and foodies – at one time either passively or actively approving of tobacco controls – have realised that the full majesty of the state’s apparatus is about to bear down on them too. As Pastor Martin Niemöller might paraphrase for today, “first they came for the smokers…”


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