(Don’t) let them eat cake!

By Joe Ventre, digital campaign manager


Today is National Dessert Day - a day to celebrate all kinds of wonderful food. Cream cakes! Ice cream! Chocolate puddings! All the things the government says we aren’t supposed to eat...


That list of course is growing, and has been under successive administrations. First it was fast foods, then fizzy drinks, then milkshakes, then supermarket snacks. Now, for some public health zealots, it’s meat. The list of taboo treats is growing every year, and taxpayers are becoming increasingly fed up with officials telling them how to live their lives.


For the nanny state, this is all par for the course. Bodies like Public Health England (PHE), which was thankfully scrapped at the beginning of this month after being proven woefully unprepared for a genuine public health emergency in covid-19, have long relied on mission creep. The budgets for these unaccountable quangos grow uncontrollably as they amass responsibilities from the endless initiatives announced by malleable government ministers.  


This government has proved no different. Boris Johnson has happily played right into their hands. The ever-present and understandable fear of covid-19 has become justification for a new wave of nannying. The replacement for PHE, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, looks set to be just as bad (and just as fervent) as its predecessor. It claims in its founding mission statement that “the new body will tackle the top preventable risk factors for poor health, including obesity caused by unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.” We can be all but certain that ‘tackling’ these things will mean taxing, banning or restricting.


We need only look at what the government has already done. The first warning signs came with the obesity measures announced in June last year, banning promotions like buy-one-get-one-free on everything from tomato soup to butter, raisins and yoghurts. Then there was the official Dimbleby Review in July, pushing the terrifying prospect of a £4.8 billion tax on sugar and salt in foods. For those that just want to be able to afford the weekly shop; eat the odd sweet treat; perhaps go for a drink and (shock horror) have a smoke occasionally; and ultimately decide how to improve their health without being bullied into it, there are slim pickings indeed. 

With a cost of living crisis on the horizon, politicians would be wise to refocus on making it easier and cheaper for people to live well. Boris was once a champion of having his cake and eating it. Now he needs to let everyone else do the same.

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