The Labour party will announce its 'public health' policies for the general election later this morning. Judging by the press release, they will be much as we expected from the rumours of a 'nanny state crack down' last year.
Andy Burnham seems eager for Labour to shed its reputation for interfering into lifestyles - he says he is moving away from the 'finger-wagging approach' - and yet he can't help himself. He 'will pledge to take tougher action to protect children from commercial pressures and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and
smoke'. Alcohol, sugar and smoke - the three horsemen of the apocalypse in a society that is scared of its own shadow. And all done, of course, for the sake of the chiiiiildren.
Here are the four policies that have been shared ahead of the speech...
Yawn. What is left to say about this ego-trip? Millions of pounds of public money have been spent promoting it in recent years and yet it remains what it has always been—a desperate scrape of the barrel designed by anti-smoking zealots to irritate the tobacco industry and stigmatise smokers.
People don't smoke because of the pack design and so there was never any chance that it would reduce tobacco consumption. Sure enough, when it was tried in Australia it didn't. Plain packaging remains on the agenda because everything else has been tried and politicians thinks it makes them look tough.
'Limits on the amount of sugar,
fat and salt in food marketed substantially to children'
Lord knows how this is going to work. How, for example, do you reduce the amount of sugar in sweets? They are, essentially, all sugar. You could replace the sugar with sweeteners, but that will only the stir the hornet's nest of cancer paranoia about aspartame and saccharin.
Famously, this piece of government über-intrusion could end up with Frosties being banned. And why? If you - as a parent - don't want your child eating Frosties, buy them Corn Flakes. If you don't want them drinking Coke, buy them Diet Coke. In almost every food category you can think of, there are low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar options. The market has provided. This is not about 'making healthy choices easier', as politicians would have you believe. It is about making tasty choices illegal.
And don't let the reference to children fool you. If the government decides a product is 'marketed substantially to children', it's going to have its recipe modified by government. Bearing in mind that Labour thinks a cigarette pack constitutes marketing to children, the sky's the limit.
'Improvements to food
labelling to help people better understand what they are eating'
Calorie, sugar, fat and salt content is clearly shown on virtually every food product you'll buy in Britain, but this isn't enough for the public health racket. Informing people was never the real goal. The true intention is to warn, deter and frighten off.
It seems that Burnham/Berger are going to work with the EU to get 'traffic light' labelling on food. This has never been tried before, but the unintended consequences are blindingly obvious to anyone who understands human nature: people will make a beeline for food that has red traffic lights on it because it will very quickly become apparent that they are a guarantee of tastiness.
'Targeted action on
high-strength, low-cost alcohol which fuels binge drinking and does most
harm to health, with a range of options on both price and bottle-size
This is rather vague, to say the least, but you will note that minimum pricing is not explicitly mentioned. Two months ago, Ed Miliband announced that he wasn't in favour of minimum pricing so perhaps the Labour party has got the message that it is unpopular, regressive and illegal.
So what could they mean? Yet more taxes? Government-mandated small bottles? Banning white cider? We should soon find out.
See also: Labour targets Frosties and jelly babies in public health campaign (Telegraph)