Tuesday 17 February 2015

Gulping down taxpayers' money

Yet another sockpuppet pressure group with a name designed around an acronym was launched this week. Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) "takes the fight to sugary drinks companies" and is aimed at spreading panic about soda.

GULP has a website full of scientifically dubious claims and has been on the road—and on the radio—to share these claims with the public. In addition, they encouraged the Daily Mail to rehash this story to turn it into this story.

It will come as no surprise if I tell you that UK taxpayers are footing the bill for all this. So much for the bonfire of the quangos. Under the coalition, state-funded public health front groups have proliferated, just as the public health budget has inexplicably risen. In addition to subsidising old timers like ASH and Alcohol Concern, taxpayers have had to pay for minimum pricing campaigns, plain packaging billboards, Dry January and the vast leviathan that is Public Health England.

And we're not just paying for GULP's roadshows and their nifty website. We also have to subsidise the PR industry...

It is, then, a highly polished job and all done with money that could have stayed in taxpayers' pockets or been spent on healthcare in the North West.

GULP illustrates the intricate depths of the sockpuppet state. Speaking on the radio yesterday, its boss, Robin Ireland, was introduced as being from a "charity" called the Health Inequalities Group. The charity actually trades as Heart of Mersey and is a hive of busybodies, including Simon "sugar is the new tobacco" Capewell, whose green ink Twitter feed speaks for itself. Robin himself "hates junk food, sugar and tobacco" so he fits in nicely.

Even by the standards of fake charities, the Health Inequalities Group's financial accounts are opaque, but it is clear that they get the vast majority of their £850,000 income from North West councils and Directors of Public Health. In 2013, the Health Inequalities Group set up another organisation called Food Active which says that sugar is "a key foundation food of capitalism" and campaigns for the usual fussbucketry, including sugar taxes. Food Active then set up GULP this year to campaign for more of the same.

These organisations are—to borrow a phrase from George Galloway—three cheeks of the same arse. The advantage of this duplication is that it creates a "swarm effect" of cheerleaders. Moreover, all three organisations can respond individually the government consultations (which is one of their most important roles).

Expect to hear much more from GULP in the future unless a future government decides to get to grips with the nationalisation of civil society and cuts the purse strings.

1 comment:

Christopher Snowdon said...

"nationalisation of civil society" is a great phrase to describe the result of funding and promoting these campaign groups