Daily Express: Boris used to be libertarian – so why now this nanny state?

During his campaign for the Tory leadership in 2019, Boris Johnson pledged to roll back ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’. Now, though, he is determined to slim Britain down by directly attacking unhealthy foods.

This article was published in the Daily Express.

FOOD prices are going up and they will only continue to do so. It has been clear since at least October that a combination of factors including supply chain issues and post-pandemic labour shortages would interrupt the smooth manufacture and distribution of food and increase costs for consumers.

As a result, our weekly shopping bills are about to become a lot more expensive. Very soon, families up and down the country will suddenly find that they have run out of money before the end of the month. In fact, more and more harrowing stories are already emerging of many having to choose between heating their homes and feeding themselves. Against that backdrop, it is baffling that this government is persisting with its wrongheaded anti-obesity drive, at great and direct cost to struggling families. Once upon a time, Boris Johnson used to call himself ‘libertarian’ and speak of Britain as a ‘land of liberty’.

In fact, during his campaign for the Tory leadership in 2019, he pledged to roll back ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’. Now, though, he is determined to slim Britain down by directly attacking unhealthy foods.

His Health and Care Bill contains a number of provisions aimed at reducing purchases of foods the government decides are ‘unhealthy’. It will ban advertising those foods on television and radio before 9pm in a new watershed, and at any time online. That policy will come at immense cost to the broadcasting, advertising and food industries, but according to the government’s own analysis, it will only remove 1.7 calories from kids’ diets per day – roughly the equivalent of a single Tic Tac or half a Smartie.

The bill will also outlaw promotional offers such as ‘buy one get one free’ on offending foods. Hoping to keep to your tight shopping budget by using a ‘3 for 2’ on crisps for the kids’ school lunch boxes? Think again. The government has decided that you’re either incapable or unwilling to make healthy choices for yourself and your family, so they are going to forcibly make those decisions for you through aggressive new nanny-state regulation.

Where the government should be easing strain on our wallets, it is instead actively worsening the cost-of-living crisis by implementing new rules which will add extra artificial costs onto our shopping bills. Research from the Food and Drink Federation predicts that the measures in the Health and Care Bill will top up our food expenses to the tune of £160 per year.

That might not sound like a bank-breaking figure, but when struggling families are already penny-pinching and still failing to make ends meet, an extra £15 or so disappearing every month will seem like a lost fortune. Food prices are going up anyway, as are our energy bills, fuel costs and National Insurance contributions. The last thing the government should be doing is unnecessarily making the everyday essentials even more expensive.

Food prices are the eye of the storm of the cost-of-living crisis. Everything is interlinked. For instance, rising gas prices directly affect manufacture and distribution costs, and those increased costs filter through to the supermarket shelves. It is a vicious cycle.

On an industrial scale, food prices have been quietly climbing for some time, mostly due to non-economic factors such as poor wheat harvests. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation puts the year-on-year increase in global food commodity prices at 30%. To date, those price increases have been largely absorbed by manufacturers, who had a vested interest in keeping prices down.

But now, given the perfect storm of political and economic problems closing in on consumers, prices in shops will inevitably rise a great deal. That means it’s crunch time – time to pull out all the stops to make sure no British family has to go without food or heating.

It is not the time for virtue-signalling on obesity through damaging and ineffective new rules and regulations. Resisting the further growth of the nanny state is the only way to keep household costs down and safeguard our most fundamental freedoms of choice in the name of personal responsibility.

Daily Express: Forget Boris – Britain desperately needs Prime Minister Priti Patel

I count myself as part of the libertarian wing of the Conservative Party, but I am also the kind of Tory who wants to win elections. Keeping the Red Wall will require ruthless pragmatism. Priti Patel is the answer.

This article was first published in the Daily Express.

WITH Sue Gray’s report a dud and the outcome of the Met Police investigation still distant, Boris Johnson seems to have survived Partygate – but it won’t be the last challenge to his premiership.

Whether it takes a month, a year or longer, eventually, he will have to go. When that happens, it should be home secretary Priti Patel who replaces him. Boris Johnson used to call himself a libertarian – now, he stands for nothing. His leadership undermines the future prospects of the Conservative Party. Priti Patel, on the other hand, has principles. She is a true-blue Conservative. If the Tory party is to have any hope of clinging onto the Red Wall and its thumping majority, it needs an inspiring leader with Thatcherite steel who can be trusted to stick to what they believe in. Patel is that leader.

After so many years in government, she has inevitably been on the receiving end of slur and slander. As the Conservative leadership contest edges closer – and Patel’s star begins to rise – her critics will undoubtedly dredge up old skeletons to try to discredit her.

None of them hold water. Theresa May sacked her from Cabinet for the grand crime of meeting with Israeli politicians and conspiring to give international aid money to hospitals treating Syrian refugees. Not many sacked ministers can say they were “overwhelmed with support from constituents and colleagues across the political divide” after having been unceremoniously booted out of government.

Quite rightly, Patel rebounded to the top of government before long as home secretary, where she was soon greeted by accusations of workplace bullying. The prime minister took her side and when the FDA, the civil servants’ trade union, dragged the matter to the High Court, Lord Justice Lewis confirmed once again that the home secretary was, indeed, in the clear.

Perhaps Patel’s critics’ favourite stick to bash her with is the migrant crisis, which is entirely the fault of the French. President Macron has an election coming up, so he has reached for the oldest trick in the book – picking a fight with the British.

Macron’s government has remained obstinate in the face of reasonable proposed solutions from the Home Office such as joint British-French patrols in the Channel, leading to more far-fetched ideas like a wave machine to push migrant dinghies back onto French shores, in a desperate attempt to find some unilateral answer to the problem.

Patel finds herself in an impossible position on this issue. She is charged with finding a way to keep people in France without the cooperation of the French. They consistently fail to intercept people traffickers setting migrants up for the perilous – and sometimes tragic – journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

French excuses for that failure include “Kamala Harris was in town” and “it was a bank holiday”. They tell us, straight-faced, that there is nothing more they could possibly do to intercept the thousands upon thousands of people smugglers operating on their shores. To lay the blame at the home secretary’s feet is absurd. She has composed herself with dignity and decorum throughout the crisis, unlike her French counterparts.

Priti Patel’s alleged flaws and failures, then, are no such thing. Still, she barely gets a look-in when the media discusses possible successors to Boris Johnson, with chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss dominating those conversations. But both suffer from fundamental, irreconcilable issues. Their popularity is fleeting.

Liz Truss appeals to the libertarian wing of the Conservative Party. I count myself as part of that wing, but I am also the kind of Tory who wants to win elections. Keeping the Red Wall will require ruthless pragmatism.

We need a leader who can talk with unquestionable authority about national identity, law and order, immigration and Brexit. The progressive, Remain-voting foreign secretary is not the answer.

Rishi Sunak has been in Cabinet for five minutes. Compared to both Truss and Patel, his lack of ministerial experience is stark – and it shows in his approval ratings, too. As the Covid chancellor, his job has been dishing out government checks left, right and centre. At one point, he even subsidised eating out – complete with his own personal branding, no less.

He ought to be polling through the roof. He isn’t. Clearly, he is no election winner either.

Sunak also suffers from ‘Treasury brain’. He apparently subscribes to the belief that we must raise taxes to tackle national debt. Whether he ends up as chancellor or prime minister, he seems set on post-Covid austerity, repeating all the mistakes George Osborne made a decade ago.

He is not the politician to lead Britain out of the pandemic and into a glorious age of post-Brexit Global Britain.

Perhaps a decade or so down the line, Truss or Sunak could be the prime minister we need. Right now, though, only Priti Patel is ready to step into the fold. She has no other serious rivals.

The usual suspects – Gove, Raab, Javid and so on – are tried and tested (and failed) leadership contenders with no inspiring vision and nothing new to offer. None came close to winning the Tory grassroots’ support in 2019 and none will be serious contenders in the post-Boris contest either.

The party and the country badly need a strong leader with heaps of ministerial experience, an immovable belief in liberty and conservatism, solid Brexit credentials and the ability to keep winning the hearts of the Red Wall. Priti Patel is by far and away the best choice. No one else comes close.

• Jason Reed is the UK Lead at Young Voices and a political commentator for a wide range of outlets. Follow him on Twitter @JasonReed624 or read more on his website, jason-reed.co.uk

Express: After Covid disaster, surely the game’s up for the pitiable World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation was wildly unprepared for the pandemic because it spent so much of its time playing politics with sugar taxes, junk food ad bans and vaping restrictions, rather than serving its purpose.

This article was first published in the Daily Express.

Since the first case of Covid was detected in Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus has infected over 130 million people across the world, killing almost 3 million. Many thousands of words have been written about the failures of local health authorities like Public Health England in preparing us for a pandemic, but perhaps the most important body of all has still not been properly held to account: the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Before 2020, most Brits probably didn’t know very much, if anything, about the WHO. It’s an arm of the United Nations, like the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation, spending most of its time working away in the background to safeguard against health emergencies, leaving the rest of us to get on with our lives. Except, of course, as we have now learned, the WHO was wilfully neglecting its duties and generally doing a terrible job, at enormous cost.

The WHO was wildly unprepared for the pandemic – with tragic consequences – because it spent much of its time playing politics rather than serving its purpose. It failed to do any of the things it should have done when the virus first broke out, even those as fundamental as being transparent about what was going on. It wasted valuable time before declaring a pandemic. It cosied up to China rather than tracing the origin of the virus. It issued actively harmful advice against masks.

Put simply, it is hard to imagine how a well-funded body charged with protecting people’s health could possibly have performed any worse. Even putting aside its appallingly close political relationship with the dictatorial, genocidal Chinese Communist Party, the WHO failed to perform its most basic function, tripping up at every hurdle. If the world had been better prepared, perhaps Covid would not have resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of people.

The WHO has form when it comes to mishandling epidemics. During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and again during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it came under widespread criticism.

One of the factors singled out as a cause of its mismanagement of these crises was its aversion to offending member states, in exactly the same way that it is now loath to offend China.

There’s no reason why these awful failures should be ‘the new normal’, so to speak. In the twentieth century, the WHO was effectively responsible for eradicating smallpox. But since then, things seem to have gone drastically downhill.

The WHO has patently failed to adequately address the scourge of anti-vaxxers leading to diseases like measles, which were all but eradicated, but which are now making a comeback around the world.

The WHO also received widespread criticism from animal conservation groups for recognising traditional Chinese medicine in its international guidelines after lobbying by Beijing, despite its role in driving the illegal trade and poaching of endangered species including pangolins and tigers — a trade that might ironically have contributed to the coronavirus’s outbreak in the first place.

The problems with the WHO run deep. It should not have taken a once-in-a-generation health disaster to expose them.

It’s time to ask some existential and probing questions. What is the WHO? What is it for? Where are its vast funds coming from? At the moment, it is trying to pretend it is both a humble, do-gooder charity which just has our best interests at heart and an all-powerful supranational organisation. It wants to be the undisputed centre of power for healthcare around the world, but without ever being held accountable for its actions. If the WHO is a charity, it should not be playing politics and cosying up to dictatorial regimes. If it’s not a charity, it must be subject to proper democratic oversight.

The WHO has not expressed any hint of remorse over its failures. There is no reason to think it is going to voluntarily change the way it operates. It’s high time for the rest of us to stand up to it and demand some answers.

Express: China is threatening Taiwan. Britain must stand up for what’s right

In Hong Kong, they sent in the riot police. In Taiwan, they will send the military. It’s time for the West to stand up to China.

This article was first published in the Daily Express.

In December 1949, following a brutal civil war in which millions died, the government of the Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan. With the support of the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong’s Communists had seized control of Beijing and implemented a dictatorship.

To this day, the Communist Party rules over mainland China – and its 1.4 billion inhabitants – while the Republic of China remains consigned to Taiwan. Fast-forward 70 years and Beijing has an economic stranglehold over most of the Western world while Taiwan is ostracised and outcast, nearly to the same extent as North Korea. Taiwan’s requests to join the UN have been repeatedly snubbed. Almost no countries recognise its sovereignty and nationhood, obeying the dogmatic Communist doctrine of the One-China Policy under threats of tariffs and trade restrictions from Beijing.

The 24 million-strong Taiwanese populace – and its democratically-elected government – are excluded from the international community.

China has become so powerful that Europe and the US have for decades collectively turned a blind eye to its flagrant human rights abuses and undue influence in key international institutions like the World Health Organisation, out of fear of economic retribution.

Western economies have become so intimately entangled with Chinese industry – and therefore with the omnipotent Chinese government – that Beijing now feels it can get away with almost anything.

But 2020 marks something of a watershed moment for Chinese relations with the West.

The Chinese Communist Party’s sins have reached a tipping point. China’s outrageous confiscating of power in Hong Kong, combined with its appalling genocide of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and its coverup of vital information relating to the initial coronavirus outbreak – at a cost of tens of thousands of lives – has left Western governments with no choice but to act.

Though they have been tepid so far, responses from the West are beginning to trickle through.

Huawei was swiftly removed from the UK’s 5G network and three million Hong Kong residents who had found themselves under Beijing’s boot were invited to relocate to Britain and offered a path to British citizenship.

But one aspect of China’s recent belligerence – perhaps the most troubling of all – remains largely unaddressed.

In recent days and weeks, China has issued a number of troubling military threats against Taiwan.

It has been making a show of flaunting its military prowess and is even flirting publicly with the idea of invasion.

The Chinese government believes that Taiwan is its sovereign territory. From Beijing’s point of view, China is perfectly within its rights to do whatever it pleases in Taiwan.

In Hong Kong, the Communist government had no hesitation in sending in hordes of riot police to violently subdue peaceful pro-democracy protesters, resulting in innumerable tragedies.

In Taiwan, they won’t be sending in the police. This time, it will be the military.

There is, of course, a necessary trade-off in foreign policy decisions. Sometimes we have to allow other countries to conduct their business in their own way, even if they do so differently to how we would have done it.

But there comes a point when humanity and compassion must supersede political convenience, when it becomes unconstructive – and indeed, destructive – to set a precedent of inaction as rogue governments run rampant. In the case of China, we passed that point a long time ago.

Taiwan is a model democracy. It represents everything that post-Brexit Global Britain should be working alongside and fighting to defend.

As Britain leaves the EU and carves out a new place for itself in the world, we must stand up for human rights and the importance of national sovereignty on the international stage. And that means standing up to China.