So it's the AGM of the Local Government Association (LGA) and, having done the regular stuff of AGMs like electing the committee and approving the accounts we get a motion. It's about public health. And it explains why the fussbuckets are triumphant.
The content of the motion itself was pretty anodyne - along the lines that public health is a jolly good thing and we need more of it. But it's when you discover just what more public health means the the hackles rise and the blood temperature lifts. For by public health they don't mean the sort of things public health should be about - air quality, clean water, immunisation and so forth - but rather they want to spend more time telling you and me that our lifestyle is wrong. More importantly these fussbuckets - we heard from a Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat, a Hertfordshire Tory and a Boltonian Labourite - want to tell people who eschew right behaviours, mostly ignorant people from the lower classes if I'm translating the rhetoric correctly, that this won't do.
In his summation the Liberal Democrat (in that rejection of liberalism and democracy typical of the sort) frowningly commented that telling people you didn't approve of their lifestyle choices wasn't conducive to getting their vote. But of course - for those poor deluded commoners - it was essential that the error of their ways is made clear and they are nudged, bullied and pressured into the approved and incredibly boring lifestyle our abstemious councillors commend. To my shame I didn't say anything - I probably should have done - but I would have been a solitary voice in a sea of fussbucketry, a torrent of approving hands gleefully voting to nanny the hell out of ordinary folk who want to smoke, drink, vape and eat kebabs.
This is what we are contending with. Local government has always attracted the busybody, the sort of person who doesn't just think he or she knows what's good for you and I but is absolutely convinced of the utter rightness of their superiority. Fussbucketry comes easy to too many local councillors - using planning rules to ban fast food shops, imposing meat-free Mondays on bin men or spending public funds on inaccurate infographic posters lecturing us about obesity. So, having got the public health budgets from the NHS, it's inevitable that some councillors will splash this money about imposing their boring, fun-free, new puritan worldview on the poor unsuspecting public.
And the excuse? All this will save money for the NHS. As the Liberal Democrat councillors said "there are too many sick people" and most of this sickness can be 'prevented' - I'm guessing because people eat sugar, put salt on their chips, drink more than one small glass of sherry a week, and don't spend two hours jogging every day. So we should invest in 'prevention' - and let me remind you that this is 'prevention':
...it is aggressively assertive, pursuing symptomless individuals and telling them what they must do to remain healthy. Occasionally invoking the force of law (immunizations, seat belts), it prescribes and proscribes for both individual patients and the general citizenry of every age and stage. Second, preventive medicine is presumptuous, confident that the interventions it espouses will, on average, do more good than harm to those who accept and adhere to them. Finally, preventive medicine is overbearing, attacking those who question the value of its recommendations.
Even worse prevention may be better than cure when it comes to personal health but it's the very opposite of a cure when it comes to the finances of our health system. Our success in preventing the quick, painful and relative youthful deaths of times past means that we've replaced it with gradual, less painful, and incredibly expensive slow death. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that our average life expectancy is pushing 80 and that plenty of people are leading happy, healthy and active lives into their 90s. But this doesn't save a single farthing in NHS spending and, in truth, represents the dominant reason for the financial pressures on the health system.
Despite this fussbucketry has triumphed. We can expect a new avalanche of public health initiatives aimed at nudging us - with the policy equivalent of a baseball bat - into the approved lifestyles nannying councillors have told us we should follow. For my part I concluded a while ago that public health is not other offensive and unethical but mostly a waste of money:
The truth about public health spending is that nearly all of it is wasted, is money spent on promoting an ideology of control. No lives are saved by public health's actions. No money is saved for the wider health system by the interventions of public health. No-one's wellbeing is improve by public health. Indeed for many thousands the actions of these ideologues result in a worse life. Yet in my city of Bradford over £30 million is spend on public health programmes, money that could fix the roads, could provide care for the elderly, could smarten up parks. Instead we'll spend it on nannying the hell out of the population, on promoting an unpleasant controlling ideology founded on a myth of wellbeing that has no basis in fact or substantive value to the poor masses it is being imposed upon.
Sitting in that hall and looking at those hands raising to endorse fussbucketry and the New Puritan agenda, I realised why millions of ordinary people voted to leave the EU and told pollsters that they didn't trust the experts and elites. I saw a comment (I forget where) about the referendum debate where, when some economist talked about GDP, someone cried out "that's your GDP not ours". The tale of fussbucketry is just another face of the passive aggressive oppression that is modern government - everything from trite lectures about chocolates on countlines through the confused debates about weight and body image to ignorant nonsense about why we get fat (and struggle to get thin again).
None of this will change much any time soon but it is time people affected by the moralising of professional fussbuckets started kicking back, telling the nannies that it really is absolutely none of their bloody business what we eat, drink or smoke. And that perhaps the fussbuckets might like to try having a little more fun in their life as maybe that would make them less inclined to ruin the pleasures of the rest of us. I hope so but suspect that the triumph of fussbucketry will run for a while yet.