For the first time since wartime restrictions were finally lifted in 1954, the British government is planning a return to rationing.
This has nothing to do with food shortages caused by Hitler’s Germany but with a different kind of totalitarian menace: health and safety Nazis.
The lunatic plan emanates from a body of grotesquely overpaid bureaucrats called Public Health England (PHE).
According to the Daily Telegraph:
Calorie limits will be imposed on thousands of foods sold in supermarkets and restaurants in a bid to combat obesity.
Draft proposals seen by The Telegraph set out detailed caps for ready meals, sandwiches and even portions of vegetables served across the country.
The plans, drawn up by Public Health England (PHE), suggest a limit of 544 calories for any convenience meal – far below many of those sold today.
Sandwiches and main meal salads would be capped at 550 calories, with a limit of 951 calories for restaurant main courses, and varying limits for other specific foods depending on where they are consumed.
The efforts are part of a Government childhood obesity strategy which promises to cut the calories in common foods by a fifth by 2024.
There are a number of problems with these proposals, starting with the fact that – as Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs notes – they will effectively ban many of Britain’s most popular dishes, including fish and chips.
If mandatory limit are introduced, it will mean an effective prohibition on many of Britain’s best loved dishes. Steak and kidney pudding far exceeds the 951 calorie limit for out-of-home food, as does ham, egg and chips, the all day breakfast, fish and chips, and beer and ale pie (based on Wetherspoons’ nutritional information). So does a normal Christmas dinner.
Then there’s the awkward fact that these rationing restrictions have no credible scientific basis.
They are astonishing, not only because they are so low but because they are so comically precise. Sandwiches and main meal salads will be capped at 550 calories, ready meals will be capped at 544 calories and main courses in restaurants will be capped at 951 calories. Vol-au-vents or onion bhajis will be capped at 134 calories and salad dressing capped at 145 calories. The spurious precision of these numbers is presumably meant to imply that they have been worked out scientifically. They haven’t, of course (why is OK to have a 900 calorie lunch in a restaurant but not OK to have a 600 calorie microwave dinner?). There is no way of working out how much energy a single meal should contain. The concept is ludicrous.
Worst of all, though, is the breathtaking illiberalism of this measure.
Totalitarian regimes, we know, are all too fond of micromanaging every last detail of their citizens’ lives.
But Britain was, until fairly recently, a free country. Indeed, it used to be a commonly heard catchphrase whenever some petty authoritarian tried throwing his weight around: “It’s a free country, mate.”
Not any more, though, apparently.
What’s particularly weird about these plans is that, though they sound just the kind of Nanny State measure Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour will introduce if it is ever voted into power, they are being plotted under a Conservative administration.
It’s a reminder of just how far the Conservative party in Britain has declined after years in thrall to squishes like John Major, David Cameron and now Theresa May who never really understood the Conservative brand but who saw it only as a means of gaining and holding power.
Nobody voted for the unelected bureaucrats trying to impose this scheme. No one but a few, self-serving, public health lobbyists and the odd virtue-signalling- or thick-as-mince celebrity chef believes the government has any business restricting our freedoms to eat what we want when we want. Why, then, must this extreme minority view of a few meddling bansturbators become our national policy?
Stephen Glover makes half a good point in the Mail, when he writes:
My biggest worry — and this is cause not just for crying but for tearing out one’s hair — is that the State should now presume to make decisions on our behalf, and allegedly in our best interests, in matters that used to be the preserve of individual choice.
Needless to say, I appreciate there is an obesity problem in this country. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are judged to be overweight.
The possible consequences for people’s health need hardly be stated.
The proper role of government, though, is not to seek to control what we eat, but to provide information, and even a little judicious advice, so that we can make up our own minds like the grown-up people we are.
What undermines it is his unnecessary concession to the junk science and fake statistics of the public health lobby. As Christopher Snowdon has demonstrated, the “obesity crisis” is largely a figment of the Nanny State’s imagination.
Once you accept, as Glover does there, that there is an “obesity problem” so obvious that it deserves to be preceded by the phrase “needless to say”, then you are already half way to conceding the health lobby’s point that something needs to be done.
The consequences of this, as Snowdon argues, can be disastrous:
Make no mistake, ‘public health’ policies do harm. They might not necessarily harm health, but they create all sorts of costs and spawn all sorts of unintended consequences.
This time last year, the Tax Payers Alliance produced a depressing illustration of what Christmas dinner would need to look like in order to meet the government’s planned health guidelines.
A visual representation designed by the TPA is below:
John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“All year long taxpayer-funded public health Tsars tell us what to eat, drink and how to spend our leisure time. If they had it their way, we would be eating nothing but salad and Brussels sprouts this Christmas, with a meagre sliver of a mince pie for pudding. I wonder if public health officials this year will be practicing what they preach by following their own healthy eating guidelines?”
So, for no benefit whatsoever, the public health lobby has bequeathed us an uglier, more morbid world in which the tobacco industry is forbidden from marketing its products effectively, advertisers are creatively shackled, and consumers are punished for enjoying a product they freely choose to enjoy. And killjoys that they are, the public health lobby considers this non-existent victory a sign of success.
These public health bansturbators make no useful contribution to the world whatsoever. It would be far, far better if Public Health England – and similar bodies – were scrapped and these parasites were forced to do something useful in return for all that taxpayers’ money they are paid.
Either that or we could eat them. They taste of chicken, apparently.