The other day, to more or less blanket media coverage, Andy Burnham (Britain's most shameless MP) launched Labour's public health strategy - "Protecting Children, Empowering All" is its title:
Changes to diet and lifestyle mean it is all too easy to lead a less healthy life than in times gone by, and we all risk taking on more sugar, fat and salt than is good for us and failing to move about enough to burn it off. Our complex and fast-moving modern world is exposing children to ever-more sophisticated commercial pressures. We are all absorbing higher levels of stress and insecurity which can erode mental health and well-being and lead to poor diet and addiction. For too many people this is the new reality of modern living in the 21st century. Helping people deal with it will require a new approach to public health.
The authors of this 'new approach' go to great lengths to tell us that this isn't the 'nanny state' - mostly because those authors have chosen to redefine what we mean by that term. But what is most shocking - from the political party that claims to champion the interests of the working class and the poorest in society - is that the proposals are for a series of highly-regressive interventions based on a combination of poor science and a snobbish attitude to the personal choices of those people. As Dick Puddlecote puts it:
It reads like it was written in Islington by a bien pensant yogic chakra-chasing millionaire surveying life outside their window with disdain and revulsion at how the unwashed choose to enjoy themselves. This, apparently, is what the modern Labour party thinks will chime with working class people...
The core of the policy is a renewed legislative attack on booze, fags, burgers and fizzy drinks. Or, as Labour describes it - alcohol, tobacco and sugar. The proposals are founded - as ever - on poor science and an almost complete absence of evidence. On alcohol the proposals are for a series of specific actions targeted at the lowest cost alcohol - bans and taxes that hit the poor not wealthy folk like Andy Burnham. We will see bans or a new higher duty on cider, giving public health directors the power to oppose licensing decisions and, I would expect, a renewed effort to introduce a blanket, regressive attack on the poorest in the form of minimum unit pricing.
On tobacco, we'll see the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes - a policy that will destroy good manufacturing jobs in Bradford without making (as we now know from the policy's effect in Australia) the slightest difference to rates of smoking. And - as befits a bunch of fussbuckets - Labour leaves the door open to bans and restrictions on vaping. Yet again, this is pointless posturing that does more harm than good for the working classes Labour claims to represent.
But it's the attack on sugar that reveals Labour at its worst. Chris Snowdon reminds us that the source of Burnham's anti-sugar position (a position almost entirely without evidential support) is pretty dodgy:
Time and time again Action on Sugar make hyperbolic and downright false claims that cannot be supported by their own citations, let alone by the wider scientific literature. It is scary to think that there are people in power who take them seriously.
The sad truth is that Labour has accepted these false arguments almost entirely, telling us that we're eating more sugar, fat and salt than we used to and that this is why we are fatter. This is quite simply untrue but it doesn't stop Labour launching into yet another attack on advertising and further judgement of the pleasing and personal choices that millions of Britons make, choices to smoke, to drink and to eat salty or sugary food.
These proposals are not only ill-founded but represent a direct, regressive attack on the poorest - things like a soda tax (which Burnham is very keen on) falls heaviest and hardest on the poor and a sugar tax would be even worse. New powers on licensing mean that pubs and clubs in poorer areas will be targeted for closure - on the grounds of combating 'health inequalities' and the entirely false belief that concentrations of licensed premises lead to higher alcohol consumption.
Hardly a day passes without some posh left-winger sniffily and disdainfully dissmissing the choices and preferences of ordinary people. For all the protests of Burnham, these labour proposals represent an extension of the nannying, controlling and dictating state. What Labour's policies tell us - yet again - is that the party doesn't believe that people, especially poorer people, are capable of making their own decisions and choices. Egged on by the health fascists in the growing public health industry, what Labour is doing is planning to ban, control or limit the pleasures of ordinary folk. The pleasures that make like just a little bit more tolerable for the poorest in society.
Labour, it seems, really has it in for poor people.