Monday, 25 November 2019

2019 manifestos - where do the parties stand on the nanny state?

With an election looming, I have been through all the party manifestos looking for nanny statism. As has become traditional, the lowlights and rankings are below.

The Green Party

The Greens name 'ending the war on drugs' as one of their priorities. They say they will...

Repeal the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016


Replace the current system of prohibition with an evidence-based, legalised, regulated system of drug control. The production, import and supply of all drugs will be regulated according to the specific risks that they pose to the individual, to society and to the environment

Pretty cool. However, they can't resist a bit of counterproductive nanny state meddling...

Cannabis will be sold subject to minimum unit pricing and plain packaging.

They falsely claim that minimum pricing 'has been shown to reduce harmful drinking in Scotland', and they intend to...

Prohibit commercial advertising of alcohol (and all other drugs)...

And then things get really mad. They say they will...

Support the transition to plant-based diets by phasing in a tax on meat and dairy products over the next ten years, to reduce the 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions that come from the methane produced by livestock.

They don't mention sugary drinks, gambling, e-cigarettes or tobacco, although they do say that they will...

Reduce VAT on food and drink served in pubs, bars and restaurants...

Alas, I don't think they're including alcohol as a drink.

Personal liberty ranking: **

Liberal Democrats

Traditionally the least liberal party when it comes to having fun, the Lib Dems show no sign of changing under Jo Swinson - around whom they are bizarrely trying to form a personality cult. In Jo's Plan for the Future (!), they set out their plans to...

Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, taking note of the impact of the policy in Scotland.

If they took note of the impact of the policy in Scotland, they wouldn't introduce it.

Reduce smoking rates by introducing a new levy on tobacco companies to contribute to the costs of health care and smoking cessation services.

This amounts to yet another tax rise for smokers, as various economists and the government have confirmed.

Require labelling for food products, in a readable font size, and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways.

A nice idea in principle but unworkable for small businesses in practice, unless the government is prepared to accept very rough estimates.

Develop a strategy to tackle childhood obesity including restricting the marketing of junk food to children, and closing loopholes in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. We will extend it to include juice- and milk-based drinks that are high in added sugar.

Juice-based drinks that are high in added sugar are already covered by the sugar tax. Presumably they mean that they will extend it to fruit juices that are high in intrinsic sugar.

Restrict how products high in fat, salt and sugar are marketed and advertised by multiple retailers.

I have no idea what 'multiple retailers' means in this context, nor how it differs from 'restricting the marketing of junk food to children' in the previous sentence, but the proposal sounds very similar to what Theresa May put in the childhood 'obesity' plan.

They also want to 'restrict gambling advertising'.

But it is not all bad news...

Help to break the grip of the criminal gangs by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. We will introduce limits on the potency levels and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18.

And that is enough to help 'Jo Swinson's Liberal Democrats' avoid getting one star.

Personal liberty ranking: **


The Tories have taken a 'safety first' approach this year and have been careful to avoid anything as controversial as the 'dementia tax'. They must have judged - correctly - the nanny state policies are unpopular with millions of people, because there aren't any in their manifesto. They say...

We will invest in preventing disease as well as curing it. We will tackle the underlying causes of increases in NHS demand, for example via a long-term strategy for empowering people with lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity to live healthier lives, as well as tackling childhood obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

But they don't say how. They have already published two childhood 'obesity' plans, of course, but these don't get a mention either. 

We will continue to take action to tackle gambling addiction.

Again, they don't give specific policies, although they say that they will review the Gambling Act 'with a particular focus on tackling issues around loot boxes and credit card misuse'.

Smoking doesn't get a mention apart from a promise to 'crack down on illicit tobacco packaging'. Nor does vaping. And the only mention of alcohol gives some cause for hope...

Alcohol Duty Review: Scotch whisky is a national export that supports 42,000 jobs across the UK. Yet the tax on each bottle of Scotch sold in this country represents almost three quarters of its price. That is why over the past two years we have frozen the duty on spirits, cutting the price of a bottle of Scotch by 30p. Now, we want to do more, which is why we will review alcohol duty to ensure that our tax system is supporting British drink producers

They also say that they will cut business rates for pubs.

Personal liberty ranking: ***

Plaid Cymru

The Party of Wales reminds us how awful they have been and how awful they will be in the future if given the chance.

Plaid Cymru has already led the way on public health measures in Wales, campaigning successfully for a ban on smoking in public places and minimum alcohol pricing. Until recently we were ridiculed for suggesting a sugary drinks tax, but now this is policy across the UK. We will further explore how the tax system can be used to promote public health, for example through introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol, and through imposing additional taxation on other potentially harmful products.

They suggest that they might support drug decriminalisation, but don't say anything else.

Personal liberty ranking: *


Corbyn and co. say they will 'invest more than £1 billion in public health', but they don't give a clear idea of how this will be spent/squandered. They also say they will...

...tackle childhood obesity and extend the sugar tax to milk drinks. We will ban fast-food restaurants near schools and enforce stricter rules around the advertising of junk food and levels of salt in food.

Smoking is dismissed in a vague twelve word statement::

We will implement a Tobacco Control Plan and fund smoking cessation services.

They say they want to 'address alcohol-related health problems and the adverse impacts of gambling as matters of public health' but the only specific policies mentioned are...

A Labour government will curb gambling advertising in sports and introduce a new Gambling Act fit for the digital age, establishing gambling limits, a levy for problem gambling funding and mechanisms for consumer compensations.


Alcoholic drinks will be labelled with clear health warnings. 

Not unless you leave the EU, they won't.

We will review the evidence on minimum pricing.  

Bring it on.

Personal liberty ranking: **

There's nothing about lifestyle regulation in the Brexit Party's slim manifesto, and I can't find the SNP's.

Happy voting!

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