Wolves of Westminster: Will the Government nanny the Blue Wall away?

Health charities, under the umbrella of the ‘Obesity Health Alliance’, can be found lobbying relentlessly for new taxes, new bans and new state interference of all kinds in the name of public health.

Health charities, under the umbrella of the ‘Obesity Health Alliance’, can be found lobbying relentlessly for new taxes, new bans and new state interference of all kinds in the name of public health. Their undoubtedly well-intentioned manouevres miss the mark – they want to prevent heart disease and diabetes, and think restricting access to unhealthy foods is the way to accomplish that. But they simplify public health policy and fail to balance competing interests. They do not acknowledge the trade-offs involved.

Read the full article on Wolves of Westminster.

Wolves of Westminster: Sugar is the new tobacco. Here’s what we should do about it

Sporadic, ill-thought-out Government interventions like banning Marmite adverts are not the answer to obesity.

This article was first published on Wolves of Westminster.

Whichever way you look at it, Britain is facing an obesity crisis. A study into long-term public health in England and Scotland published earlier this month reached the startling conclusion that obesity is causing more deaths than smoking, with nearly two thirds of British adults now overweight.

This past year has brought rising obesity levels into sharp focus because of the effect that being overweight seems to have on the fatality of Covid-19. According to research from the World Obesity Federation, nine out of ten deaths from coronavirus occurred in countries with high obesity levels, which might go some way towards explaining why the UK has seen a disproportionately high death toll.

This issue has not passed the Government by. Led by a man who was elected on a platform of halting ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’, this Conservative Government has unveiled a raft of policies designed to ease the pressure on Britain’s weighing scales, including the sugar tax, a ‘junk food’ advertising ban and even a fund – with a £100m price tag – which is apparently designed to bribe people into losing weight.

The problems with these policies are too numerous to count. Sin taxes hit the poor harder than anyone else, making the weekly shopping trip more expensive for families who are already struggling. The junk food ad ban is set to remove around 1.7 calories, or half a Smartie’s worth of energy intake, from children’s diets per day – according to the Government’s analysis of its own policy. And the state-funded version of Slimming World sounds like something that comes out of a pop-up book of policies. Yes, and ho!

It is unclear why Boris Johnson, who was able to lose weight after his brush with Covid without any of these new Government-sponsored initiatives in place, is now so firmly of the belief that the Government must crack down on unhealthy eating if we are to have any hope of slowing down the increase in obesity rates – especially when the private sector is doing most of the hard work voluntarily.

Tesco, for instance, recently bowed to external pressure by committing itself to increasing its sales of healthy foods to 65% of total sales by 2025. Time and time again, when there is an issue people care about, companies go out of their way to do their bit – even at the expense of their bottom line. We saw the same thing happen when the world woke up to the reality of climate change, with businesses eagerly signing up to costly net-zero plans.

Positive moves like this from incumbent giants are complemented by the wealth of innovation taking place around obesity. Semaglutide, a diabetes drug, was recently found to be extraordinarily effective in helping people lose weight. Even something as innocuous as sugar-free chewing gum might just represent part of the solution. Data suggests that the mere act of idle chewing suppresses the appetite, resulting in a 10% reduction in the consumption of sweet and salty snacks.

Crucially, these remarkable steps towards a less obese Britain can take place at no cost to the taxpayer, free of the grip of Whitehall bureaucracy and at an astonishing pace. We have just lived through a year in which the Government pumped billions into a near-useless ‘test and trace’ system and repeatedly failed to clarify whether or not drinking coffee on a park bench is illegal. If there is one incontrovertible lesson we can surely take from that, it is that we should not leave such important tasks to the state.

Sugar is the new tobacco, so we need to be smart in how we tackle it. Sporadic, ill-thought-out Government interventions like banning Marmite adverts are not the answer. Private-sector innovation, not centralised policy, is Britain’s best hope of slimming down.

Wolves of Westminster: Boris Johnson – The man young Conservatives like me should get behind

Boris Johnson is the unifier that the Conservatives need. Come Christmas, he will have executed Brexit and finally taken British politics off pause, setting us on the road to a bright Conservative future.

This article was first published on Wolves of Westminster.

For all that has been made of the sheer volume of wannabe leaders who have spent the last few weeks parading themselves in front of us, and irrespective of the ridiculousness of the narcotics top trumps, policy discussions in this leadership contest have been delightfully sensible and nuanced, especially on Brexit. Setting aside outliers like People’s Voter Sam Gyimah and people’s champion Rory Stewart, the only real dividing line between the candidates on Brexit is whether or not they are willing to countenance No Deal.

Boris Johnson is the unifier that the Conservatives need. The fact that he has won endorsements from Tory ultra-Brexiteers Steve Baker and Priti Patel whilst also enjoying support from “centrism” enthusiast Johnny Mercer (and a host of other moderates) speaks to his unique ability to bring Conservatives together behind a common desire to get Brexit done and a shared vision of a booming post-Brexit Britain.

A logjam in a hung parliament, combined with a rogue Speaker and an electoral populist explosion that is making the polls more volatile than the stock markets, means that pragmatism is an inescapable necessity. Rory Stewart may be the candidate preaching compromise and realism the loudest, but the only person truly putting that into action is Boris Johnson. Johnson’s entirely sensible, down-the-middle approach to Brexit is perfectly balanced to drag Britain through this crisis once and for all by winning back Conservative defectors from all directions.

Johnson intends to stare facts in the face and get to the bottom of Michel Barnier’s stern rhetoric once and for all by implementing a long-awaited now-or-never approach to Brexit: if substantial alterations to the Withdrawal Agreement are not offered in the coming months, we leave without a deal in October. Either way, by the end of the year, the all-consuming issue of Britain’s relationship with Europe will, with a bit of luck, have largely dropped off our national radar. Our political bandwidth will be freed up for the first time in years for exploring other pressing issues like violent crime, school funding and the environment.

On the fundamental point that pursuing a Hallowe’en Brexit is vital for both party and country, the candidates are broadly in agreement. Even Rory Stewart, who has momentarily captured the yearning gazes of the long-abandoned Twitter politicos, acknowledges that we should seek to leave the EU quickly and quietly.

Stewart is viewed admiringly by many as the brave compromise candidate, valiantly speaking the truths no one else dares confront. His ideology is a refusal to have an ideology. By beating everyone else to the punch and entering the leadership contest long before it began, he was able to seize the momentum and present himself as the voice of sensible Conservativism. When it comes to his actual policy pledges, though, his approach is terrifyingly creative.

He may have ruled out a second referendum, but Stewart has no qualms about circumventing democracy by simply ignoring the will of Parliament. His fetish for citizens’ assemblies is questionable, to say the least, and his bizarre assertion that a variation of the Duke of Edinburgh award should be compulsory has raised many eyebrows. This is in addition, of course, to his markedly unpragmatic commitment to taking No Deal off the table. He is not the compromise candidate – Johnson is.

Despite polling poorly with my fellow young Conservative members, Johnson remains the strong frontrunner to take up the leadership mantle next month. He has already achieved more MPs’ endorsements than any of his rivals. Perhaps the most significant of those, especially in terms of the youth vote, is that of Cabinet Secretary and freedom fanatic, Liz Truss.

Swathes of young Tories shed a collective tear when Truss announced that she would not stand in the leadership contest. Unlike Nigel Farage’s attention-hungry brand of media-driven populism, Truss’s politics truly do transcend the left-right dichotomy. She has greatly excited Tory Twitter by mirroring the thinking of neoliberal organisations like the Adam Smith Institute and promoting a youth-centric policy agenda founded on small-state conservatism and individual responsibility.

This worldview enjoys thumping endorsements from young Conservatives. In other words, liberty is the future of the Conservative party. That is why, before she dropped out, Truss was a roaring favourite for leader among us freedom-loving youngsters. The fact that she has now thrown her considerable weight behind Boris Johnson – and is therefore almost certain to take up a senior Cabinet position upon his coronation – sets him in yet stronger stead, not only to begin to heal the Brexit wounds, but to facilitate an optimistic, chin-up approach to building a bright post-Brexit future. Johnson brings together the best bits of Truss and Stewart, with a dash of Mercer and a hint of Baker, making him the candidate who can unite Conservatives of all colours behind a shared vision for a better Britain.

Given his support among both the parliamentary party and the membership, it looks inevitable that Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister by the end of next month. The obligatory caveat, of course, is that many said much the same thing in 2016. It seems safe to say that, short of a similarly extraordinary event to the one that left reporter Sam Coates visibly gobsmacked live on BBC News three years ago, Johnson will sweep to victory and, come Christmas, have executed Brexit and finally taken British politics off pause, setting us back on the road to a bright Conservative future.