Christopher Snowdon

Boris Johnson’s absurd nanny state crusade

Photo by Hannah McKay-WPA Pool/Getty Images

If reports in today’s papers are to be believed, the government will propose a new raft of nanny state policies on Monday. This time the target is food. A ban on advertising sugary, salty and fatty food on television before 9 p.m. is said to have been given the green light. The government will also dictate where these products can be legally displayed in shops. No more Lindor at the entrance. No more bacon at the end of the aisle.

Despite my libertarian disposition, I take a perverse satisfaction in some of this. The television companies that spent years hyping the childhood obesity ‘epidemic’ and demanding tough action from government are now set to lose £200 million a year in advertising fees. Channel 4 might finally reflect on the wisdom of employing Jamie Oliver to make one-sided agitprop.

It doesn’t matter who you vote for, Public Health England always gets in

Similarly, the food industry might finally realise that the ‘public health’ lobby is serious in its rhetoric about ‘Big Food’ being the new Big Tobacco. Food companies went along with Public Health England’s ludicrous reformulation scheme because of the thinly veiled threat of more draconian laws if they didn’t comply. Now that the government is going to pass the laws anyway, they might awake from their slumber and stand up for themselves. Anti-smoking legislation started with a ban on television commercials before 9 p.m. – they must see which way the wind is blowing.

There is also a strange comfort in being able to abandon hope in Boris Johnson so soon into his premiership. It saves time in the long run. To be honest, his libertarianism was already in doubt when he put us all under house arrest for three months but, to be fair, that was under exceptional circumstances.

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