|"What's that, Lord? Tax the poor?"|
It is not an original thought to say that public health crusaders often resemble religious zealots, but seldom is the comparison more literal than in the case of Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group.
He was recently on the television advocating for the 'fat tax', and he has a blog...
I’m not going to run through my cv but at the moment I work full time for the University of Oxford in the Department of Public Health. I am the director of a research group there. The funding for my salary comes from the British Heart Foundation and the research we carry out is into issues such as food labelling, food advertising to children, food taxes (such as the Danish fat tax which has been in the news recently) etc.
He is one of the many researchers-cum-activists who populate the oxymoronic field of public health.
We aim to do research which has an impact on Government policy...
Because nothing says 'quality, impartial science' like an open admission of wanting to change the law of the land.
...we have had some success in this regard. For example some people credit us with inventing traffic-light labelling for foods and we paid a part in writing the current legislation around the tv advertising of junk foods to children and I think our research was one of the reasons why David Cameron changed his mind about fat taxes recently.
So far, so mundane. Another illiberal battler against the free market with a heightened sense of his own importance and his nose in the trough. The only point of interest is that Mr Raynor is a Church of England priest who is guided by voices.
In all of this I see a sacred dimension. You may not believe that I have heard God aright but I think God is calling me to work towards the introduction of soft-drink taxes in this country and I am looking forward to the day when General Synod debates the ethical issues surrounding this type of tax rather than some of the other issues that august body seems obsessed by.
Golly. Where to begin? On a theological note, I do wonder whether Jesus would really be in favour of a deeply regressive stealth tax that would take from the poor to give to the rich. Perhaps the reason the General Synod does not debate tax policy is because they recall the old "render under to Caesar..." message and realise that it's none of their business.
If we weren't already sceptical about the documents coming from Mr Rayner's team of would-be policy-makers, the fact that its director believes that God has told him to bring about a fat tax in this land should be enough to make us suspect that a tiny bit of research bias might have crept into his work. Considering that the Almighty has approved of the policy, what are the chances of his loyal servant producing evidence that would question its efficacy?
(You can download my latest paper, The Wages of Sin Taxes, here.)