13 Jan

Fat lot of good

There should be a new national anthem – and perhaps bring back The Beatles to sing it: Getting Fatter All the Time. Grim news this morning from the front line in the nation’s battle against obesity. I’m constantly amazed  at the number and range of the battles going on. There’s the well-known battle with alcohol – chiefly fought by lying on the sofa and downing cans of strong lager. Then there’s the government’s battle against press freedom alongside the decades-long wars against the motorist and the saver. Of course information tends to get lost in the fog of war but here we are fortunate for we have up to date communiques on the fat war provided by the National Obesity Forum. Yes, there really is such a body. Presumably a representatively sizeable body. NOF is chaired by a sort of Nanny McPhee on behalf of the nanny state in the shape of Professor David Haslam. In Dad’s Army we were urged, “Don’t panic!” Nanny McHaslam says we should panic all the time:

“Not only is the obesity situation in the UK not improving…” (Nice line in double negatives Nanny. That should use up a few calories)  “…but the doomsday scenario set out in that report might underestimate the true scale of the problem. There needs to be concerted action. There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves – but this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing.”

The creed of NOF and of all nannying quangos is It is Always Someone Else’s Fault. We are all vulnerable. Even criminals are not to blame for their misdeeds as we hear every day reference to people who are at risk of committing a crime. In the same way, I suppose, that I am regularly at risk of lying too long in bed. Solving the obesity crisis is clearly too much for one nanny. Fortunately, Nanny McHaslam of NOF has –  a little? – helper in Nanny McFenton who is commissar at Fat Association Teaching Sense Organisation (FATSO). Actually, I made that up. He is really Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England. If only it had been Public Health England and Wales – then we could acronymise it as PHEW!  He says,

“Obesity is an international problem.It is a complex issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level. Everyone has a role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the public, and children in particular.PHE are committed to helping to tackle obesity through a range of approaches that support action on the local environment to make eating less and being more physically active easier.”

Yes, Commissar McFenton, we must all do our bit for the war effort. That is the everlasting war of bureaucrats on the English language: “play a role…committed to tackling…range of approaches.”

What nobody seems to have twigged is that the war on obesity is a phoney war. It is not being fought to rid the nation of its excess pounds (or stones) but to provide jobs for the nannying quangos themselves. The participants in this war are – besides the bureaucrats – food companies, advertisers, architects of fad diets, health and fitness freaks and government spokes–non-persons out to make their mark. Like the crooks and spivs who profited throughout WW2, they are making a mint.

They all get together in the evenings, thank whatever gods may be for the dogmas of obesity, join hands and sing, “O what a lovely war!”