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Andy Burnham? Children's saviour or a Brazilian cock-fish?

Columnist MR EUGENIDES

ANTI-GLOBALISATION campaigners, when they are not “occupying” Starbucks or picketing Apple stores, like to speak of something which they call “the race to the bottom”. Although the label may make it sound like sections of Edinburgh's Broughton Street on a Saturday night, it’s a worthy enough idea. Recent events suggest that our political masters, too, are engaged in a race to the bottom. No idea, it seems, is too stupid to be deemed worthy of consideration. No wheeze is too crackpot, no policy too half-baked. We are governed by people we wouldn’t trust to housesit our fucking goldfish.

The latest insult to our intelligence emanates from Andy Burnham, a pair of eyelashes that used to be in the Government. By his own account, he is a fuckwit of limited intelligence. He buys cereals and soft drinks, thinking because of their marketing that they are healthy, but then discovers – to his horror! – that they are anything but. Burnham, who presumably is the sort of guy who buys cars because of the adverts or supports Everton because he likes the colour of their shirts, now proposes that most Labour of solutions to the pressing national crisis posed by Coco Pops and Frosties: banning them.

So far, so typically socialist. But, just as I was busy dusting off my John Prescott “fat” jokes, in wades Jeremy Hunt, that gift to budding poets everywhere. Hunt, a man who even from this distance doesn’t immediately strike one as the smartest person ever to pass through the doors of the Palace of Westminster, was not to be outdone in the pointless finger-wagging department. "My message to the supermarkets and the food manufacturers is that we will of course consider legislation”, he warned. “But we want to give you a chance to put your house in order and make sure that we are not shovelling sugar down the throats of young children and storing up problems for the future.”

That last qualification at least offers up the possibility that Hunt was merely clearing his throat to deny Burnham a free day’s worth of publicity, and that he doesn’t actually intend to do anything about sugary cereal at all. We can but hope; because the alternative, that Jeremy Hunt wants to get into a pissing war with Andy Burnham over who can be tougher on the merchants of death at Kellogg’s, is beyond depressing.

(What is the question, anyway, to which the answer is Jeremy Hunt? We’d be better off with Gareth Hunt. At least he had the thing with the fucking beans.)

What’s entirely absent from this discussion – what no-one seems to be interested even in mentioning - is a little thing called personal responsibility. It genuinely does not seem to occur to these two prancing tits that the amount of sugar we “shovel down the throats of young children” is a matter not for government but for parents. Let’s get this straight: there is no such thing as “public” health, Mr Burnham. There is your health, and then there is my health, and then there is the health of everyone else. Only one of those is any of your fucking business. Can you guess which one?

Look, your scribe is no stranger to the dessert trolley. As I pull my supersized carcass up the hill to my flat every day after work, I reflect on the obvious truth that my physique could well be more honed and my belly a little less spherical. Why, I ask myself between wheezing breaths, am I overweight? Well, I am not overweight because of the failings of the Kellogg’s cereal company, McDonald’s, Scottish & Newcastle or the Department of bloody Health. I am overweight because my father is overweight, because I eat too much red meat and drink too much beer, because my idea of exercise is whacking-off to the X Factor. It’s not exactly a mystery worthy of an episode of fucking Quincy.

But this is how these things start, isn’t it? First comes the public appeal for the children – the poor, innocent children! - designed to marginalize those of us who believe in freedom and responsibility by shaming us into submission. How can you subject our children to passive smoke and the risk of any early death, they ask, plaintively? Are you in favour of lung cancer for five year-olds, sir? To which we must reluctantly concede that, on balance, no; we are not. And before you know it, they’ve banned smoking in pubs, places no five year-old should ever be allowed into anyway. It’s a classic wedge tactic, designed to inveigle the state into yet another area of our life where it has no goddamned business being, in the full knowledge that once there it will be all but impossible to dislodge, like one of those little fish in the Amazon that swim into your cock and then deploy barbs to prevent you winkling it out. That’s what Andy Burnham is like. He’s like a Brazilian cock-fish.

I do understand why politicians feel that something needs to be done. I really do. Obesity is a problem for many people, and it does damage the health outcomes of a growing number of Britons, particularly in poorer areas of the country. But the solution is not to infantilise people; it’s not to treat parents like children and ban things we don’t approve of. And it’s profoundly depressing that the first instinct of those who govern us is to reach for the blunderbuss of state regulation.

Mind your own gut, Burnham, and I’ll mind mine, thank you. Anyone for breakfast? 

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Article from Saturday 12, January, 2013