Julie Burchill

Michael Buerk wants to let fat people die early? That’s a bit rich

Michael Buerk wants to let fat people die early? That's a bit rich
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I nearly choked on my Krispy Kreme when I read that the journalist Michael Buerk had announced that fat people (I’m not going to use his word, obese; fat is perfectly serviceable and doesn’t have the same judgemental, almost parasexual feel) should be allowed to drop dead and no longer trouble the NHS with their chubby troubles. All those years I listened to The Moral Maze thinking of him as a cross between Solomon The Wise and Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid and he turns out to be some superannuated playground bully!

It’s a bit rich that Buerk himself is a whopping 73 years old; there are a lot of nutters out there who think that everyone over the age of 60 is ready for the knacker’s yard. Doesn’t it occur to him that once the fat are written off as time-wasting bed-blockers the old will be next on the list? But of course when the metropolitan elite make pronouncements about unworthy groups of people, they never include themselves or their Great And Good cronies. Think of the 70-year-old Ian McEwan wetting himself over the idea of ‘1.5million oldsters, mostly Brexiters, freshly in their graves’. Who does this desiccated husk of a Remoaner see when he looks into his Magic Mirror – Harry Styles?

If the NHS doesn’t treat fat people, where will it end? Drinkers and smokers are certainly aware of how they’re risking their health every time they get one in or spark one up; indeed, a few years back the NHS mooted the idea that they wouldn't operate on smokers who refused to quit. This was never carried through, maybe due to the embarrassing fact that at the current rate of tax on cigarettes – handing the Treasury about £12 billion per year – the average smoker will have  easily paid for his healthcare by the time he savours his final fag.

What about people who get run over while talking on their phones – leave them there in the road as a warning to other chatterboxes! What about people who play dangerous sports – not just mountaineers (who endanger their rescuers as well as themselves) but those who amuse themselves with boxing, rugby and horse-riding? In fact, anyone who doesn’t wrap up warm, mind how they go and generally live their life like a scared-stiff sissy.

I was fat for a good two decades and never once did I bother a doctor with any ailments; one GP was on the point of striking me off his register – when I bumped into him in the street he thought I’d moved out of the area. I’m still overweight and as I’m now 60, a nurse suggested I was tested for diabetes as my feet are so funny-looking; completely clear. When all around me are falling down with minor ailments, I power on. Some of the most doctor-bothering miseries I’ve known have been thin, and could have saved the NHS a lot of bother if they’d just cheered up and scoffed something tasty.

Then there’s the fact that the BMI is always being tampered with; now many professional athletes are in the obese category. And according to a 2013 report reviewing more than a hundred previous studies, the longest living people are those with a BMI of 25 to 30 – officially overweight. Even the BBC, the ultimate scolding nanny, announced awhile back that ‘Being overweight may not be as unhealthy as it was 40 years ago’ due to the fact that a BMI of 27 is linked to the lowest rate of death.

I'm very much in favour of free will and adult agency; I do believe that being fat is a weakness and not an illness, and that babying fat people is as insulting as shaming them. But you could say that about so many things. For instance, I don't believe in drug addiction – just drug habits; stick the most pathetic junkie on a desert island and he won’t die – he’ll recover. But the NHS falls over itself to cosset junkies with methadone, while I was a hard-working, top-bracket, tax-paying coke-head for three decades, and never got so much as a free sniff. Where’s the justice in that?

Now that hate speech is such a big thing, fat people would appear to have picked up the slack – and there is a peculiarly unique frothing, demented aspect to the loathing, almost as though thin people resent them for all the doughnuts they themselves ever turned down. That an intelligent and respected man such as Michael Buerk has added intellectual heft to this hatred is shameful. I’m not fat anymore, but I’m certainly no sylph, and if I ever see him, I’ll sit on him – that should shut him up.