Nanny will see you now…

713370266Last night, after a night out with friends in London, I decided to treat myself to a lovely chicken shish kebab on the way home from the aptly named ‘Rochester’s Best Kebabs’. For many on a night out, a juicy kebab after an evening’s drinking is de rigeur. It just has to be done.

It’s a good job that I didn’t wait until I got home and had a bowl of Frosties or Sugar Puffs instead to satisfy my cravings, because, according to Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, cereals such as these are, metaphorically, the work of the devil and should be banned. Yes, you did read that right. Labour wants to ban Frosties and Sugar Puffs. Apparently it’s for our own good.

The argument being put forward is that, because some children’s cereals are high in sugar, they should be banned. For the good of our children of course. It’s always about the children.

This completely ignores the fact that we live in a country where we have the freedom to choose what we eat, and when we eat. As a parent myself I take a great interest in my child’s diet. I like to make sure he eats healthily. I certainly wouldn’t like to see him eating high sugar frosted cereals every morning anymore than I would be happy with him eating processed convenience foods every night for dinner. There’s an old saying that a little of what you fancy does you good. It’s a good saying – everything in  moderation.

It comes to something when a politician such as Andy Burnham calls for restrictions on parental choice for our, supposedly, own good. It would be very easy to dismiss his pronouncement as another example of Labour’s nanny state nonsense. Unfortunately, the fact is that this prevalence of big state interference and intrusion into our private lives has, as recorded by Cllr Simon Cooke here, been ongoing for some time and isn’t restricted to any one political party.

Here in Conservative-run Medway, councillors have been invited to a workshop later this month entitled ‘Tackling obesity through healthy eating and healthy planning’. According to the blurb the workshop is aimed at ‘Creating, and improving access to, a healthier food environment’. Medway does, admittedly, have a problem with obesity like many other places in the country. This follows on from a recent proposal by officers to place restrictions on fast food outlets near schools as a means to tackling childhood obesity.

But let’s wind that one back – Creating a healthier food environment. All very Common Purpose. Sorry, but what business is it of ours to place restrictions on legitimate businesses in our area as to how and when they can operate? None that I can think of. Yes, we can educate and encourage people to take on healthier lifestyles, but restricting local businesses in Medway through existing planning and licensing laws due to their geographical location and proximity to schools strikes me as being illiberal, unConservative, and a complete nonsense. It is not something which I can support. It’s a slippery slope. If we first restrict fast food stores, will we then look further at the local corner shop which stocks sugary drinks, sweets and snacks? Will we require newsagents near schools to shut up shop between 3-4pm each day just to create a healthier food environment? Where does it all end?

It’s interesting to note that two of the borough councils cited in the workshop’s blurb – Luton and Sandwell – are both Labour-run authorities. No lessons to be learned there then I would hope.

It is ultimately down to parents themselves to educate and enlighten their children on diet. I, for one, would feel very uncomfortable in following Andy Burnham’s lead in presuming that government, locally or nationally, should have the final say in what our children eat through proscription. It simply is none of our business.

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