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The big pay off

Compared to the length of time it took to hike up the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and petroleum, the great ‘junk food’ shakedown has been completed in remarkably quick time. HMG is clearly honing its modus operandi down to a fine art: [note: link to UK Times may not be available to readers based outside the UK]

BRITAIN’S biggest food companies are to be told by the government to pay an “anti-obesity” levy to fund new sports centres or face punitive laws restricting advertising, marketing and labelling.

Firms such as McDonald’s, Walkers and Cadbury Schweppes are to be asked to contribute tens of millions of pounds towards the sports facilities. The government is set to provide £1m for the scheme for every £3m pledged by the food industry. It will be used to build sports centres, gyms, football pitches and tennis courts.

The food industry confirmed this weekend that it was preparing to co-operate with ministers and could provide hundreds of millions of pounds to fend off regulation.

Of course, I knew this was coming but not even I was prepared for the ugly truth to be revealed quite this rapidly. The Treasury must be desperate for the cash. Yes, it really was only a few short weeks ago that I noticed the wave of ‘shock, horror’ articles about an ‘obesity crisis’ ripple right through the Fourth Estate like an electro-magnetic pulse. From out of the blue, every single news organ in the land was suddenly brimming with distraught editorials about how fat all ‘our children’ were becoming and what could be done about it. Some blamed the food industry, some blamed the public, some blamed advertising, some blamed George Bush, everyone blamed ‘rampant capitalism’ (as if we have even a faint prospect of such a thing) and former Tory cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, brought a twitch to everyone’s jowls by blaming it on homosexuals.

It all felt far too co-ordinated to be either genuine or the mere manifestation of some form of mass hysteria. In fact, it was neither. It was a deliberate, well-planned and professionally executed ‘softening up’ operation designed to smooth the political path for the pay-off of a ‘junk food’ levy.

There is no ‘obesity crisis’. It is, and always has been, a fictional hobgoblin to be exploited for maximum fiscal effect and now that endgame has been achieved, press coverage of the ‘obesity crisis will suddenly vanish as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared. Job done (at least until such time as an increase in the tax is required).

But even if ‘our children’ were as dumpy as has been so mischieviously claimed, they are going to get thinner now for sure. The tax on the profits of food producers will be passed onto consumers who will now have to pay significantly higher prices for their weekly shopping. As with all such extortions, it is those on fixed or low incomes who will be hit the hardest.

Nor are they to be compensated by the appearance of any brand, spanking new sports facilities which, I predict, will never materialise. A few crumbs of the cash will go to the appointment of some Real Sports Advisers as a Potemkin show, but the lion’s share of the money will simply be poured into the great, sucking black-hole of the public sector and lost. That is how it goes in Britain.

So now that our wonderful, caring government has finally solved the ‘obesity crisis’, all that remains is for us to speculate as to what private sector industry is next on the list for a shakedown. At a rough guess, I’d say telecommunications. There is an awful lot of money sloshing around in that sector right now and that makes it a very tempting target. I do not yet know what pretext will be employed but I am in no doubt whatsoever that it will somehow involve ‘our children’.

29 comments to The big pay off

  • ernest young

    Didn’t telecoms get mugged over the G3 auctions?

  • Verity

    Even as hardened a cynic as I am was startled by how supine the British press was over this so-called “obesity” panic.

    Needless to say, the BBC grabbed it gratefully between its jaws and bounded all over its site with it. But what possible excuse, for example, could the editor of The Telegraph have for running the item at all, never mind on the front page? This is ‘lifestyle’ page filler. It’s a non-story about a non-event. The front page? What was the quid pro quo involved, I wonder?

    My guess: The Telegraph editor knows he’ll get the bum’s rush the minute The Telegraph has new owners and he’s laying the groundwork for a position to which he is more suited – at The Guardian or the BBC, for example. Or, equally probable, with NuLab.

    I see this, as David said, outstandingly swift evolution from manufactured rumour to egregious action, as yet another grind of the jackbooted heel on the British neck. Toneboy thinks Britain is his personal fiefdom – like the Dame of Sark. He thinks he can run it without regard to the citizenry. He is a disgraceful, eerily rudderless creature. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should read Matthew Parris’s take on the strangeness of Tony Blair in this week’s Speccie.

  • There is also stuff in the Mail on Sunday about banning smoking everywhere as per Ireland in a few months, & something I heard on Radio 4 the other day about a “Good Samaritan” law where you have to help another in distress or get into big trouble. In both cases nannyism was denied & society was blamed.

  • Verity

    They’ve got a Good Samaritan-type law in France. I have two things against it: it is not the state’s business to legislate human kindness. This is another instance of the state killing human instinct and I hate it. It is designed to steal initiative from citizens.

    Second, imagine if you stop at a car crash and you, in your medical ignorance, do something wrong and one of the victims’ families sues you for wrongful death.

    A totally revolting law. So Blair will pass a fiat and have it made so in Britain.

  • Uncle Bill

    There are Good Samaritan laws in the US (state not federal, I think) but they are designed to “hold harmless” doctors and/or nurses or other competent individuals.

    The problem was that lawyers were suing the folks trying to be helpful until the paramedics on duty arrived.

  • Uncle Bill

    This explains the situation in the US better than I did.

  • James

    I’ve recently completed a first aid course in work. The “Good Samaritan” law was touched upon. As a general guideline, the instructor told us that CPR and such is appropriate, but it’s a grey area when you get into homemade tracheal openings and chest cracking (unless qualified).

    As for the “bad food” epidemic, it’s instructive to see that one of the most famous women of late, Jennifer Lopez, is admired for her not-thin build and figure.

    In the words of the bard;

    “The anorexic chicks, the model 6
    They don’t hold no weight with me
    Well 8 or 9, well that’s just fine
    But I like to hold something I can see”

  • “[…] are to be asked to contribute […]”

    Asked? Contribute?

    Puhlease. Even the mob is more honest than this.


  • Verity

    Let’s not get confused between the US 50 states, and all the countries of the European Union here.

    In France, there is a Good Samaritan Law which means if you see an accident or distress, you are obliged by law to stop and help, no matter how little interest you may have in the fate of your fellow humans. The state is going to force you to love them.

    It’s got nothing to do with doctors and nurses, who, one assumes, would be naturally inclined to stop and render assistance.

    The French, wisely, seem to take it that the law means you should quickly dial 18 (emergency) on your mobile, then skedaddle. But there will always be some kind people who remain, trying their best to alleviate the problem until professional help comes along, and it is wrong that they are vulnerable. We’re social animals.

    Legislating/codifying human kindness is repulsive and is the act of an over mighty state.

  • Guy Herbert

    But this is the original mob, mobilis vulgus, in action, Myria: “We’re too greedy and idle. Someone’s gonna pay!” The Mob indeed are gentlemen by comparison.

    Note all, though, that this is Mr Blair’s preferred kite-flying medium–The Sunday Times. It hasn’t actually happened yet. May not even have been cleared with the Treasury. The thing that’s worrying is that the kite-flying is in the teeth of the D-Day gale, so it may well be a don’t-say-we-didn’t-warn-you sort of story.

  • Which means the only ones who will be able to provide affordable food for the low-income demographic and make a profit out of it are the large concerns whose economies of scale give them the ability to ‘match’ those tax increases. In other words, the bad evil food companies will own the very people this tax will affect most. (Since obesity is statistically more prevalent among low income folks).

    And once again, the well-off people who do not smoke cigarettes or eat fatty stuff – because they can afford fancy fatty stuff and cigars – impose a tax on the poorer ones who do. While, of course, their favorite foie gras, sushi and fancy pastries will remain untaxed. New snobs, same tune.

  • Verity

    Guy – In other words, this might have been a good day to bury fascist ideas.

  • Thon Brocket

    On the Good Samaritan bit: for myself, when I discover someone bleeding to death in a car smash – as you do from time to time – I make a point of checking that he doesn’t work for the Inland Revenue before ripping the sleeve off a perfectly good shirt for a tourniquet.

  • Malcolm

    I sure hope some bright spark in McDonalds is right now lining up a bunch of sports centres and playing fields to have a photocall with as they each accept a cheque from McD’s the day the government announces that a deal has been reached. “Oh you meant give it to you, Minister?”.

  • GCooper

    On Sunday evening’s R4 Westminster Hour, that egregious ‘New’ Labour hack Andrew Warnsley was virtually baying at Tessa Jowell to introduce a ‘Fat Tax’.

    Jowell (well named) sounded quite put-out by Warnsley’s fierce advocacy and tried her best not to appear an apostle of Nannyism.

    Which, presumably, was what had been the plan all along: to create the impression that there is a genuine public demand for this nonsense, given voice by the Warsnleys and Toynbees.

    It is, as David Carr says, quite staggering how quickly the media bought this one and, as Verity has pointed out, how craven the Telegraph has been on the issue.

    However, as I’ve said before, this is not news. The Left has targeted food production since the 1930s, the big breakthrough coming when, in the 1980s, the extremist ‘London Food Commission’ received funding from Ken Livingstone’s Marxist GLC.

    I urge anyone interested in learning how the Left operates to research this themselves – half an hour on Google will more than suffice. There is an unholy cabal at work, funded by the state, which has been building-up to this launch for years. Magazines, conferences, books, papers, ‘research’, media lobbying – all paid for out of our taxes- have been stoking the unconscious guilts of the middle classes toward this point, when the main assault can begin.

    This isn’t about health. It most certainly isn’t about science. It is about radically forcing society to some kind of arcadian socialist, post-hippy wet-dream.

    If ever there was a justification for belief in a Gramscian plot at work in the UK, this is, most certainly. it.

  • Damn. Extortion so skilled is almost a thing of beauty –as long as it’s Over There.

    For God’s sake, don’t let Jesse Jackson see how it’s done, or he’ll be even worse than he is now.

  • Guy Herbert

    With GCooper, I commend to everyone’s attention as a case study, both in the long march through the institutions and the rise of the regulatory class, the development of the anti-food-business movement. The London Food Commission (note portentous official sounding title) and its front Parents for Safe Food secured attention, funding, then notional academic respectability as its key activist Tim Lang got himself a chair in a discipline that his pressure group had invented. Now the same people are advising and driving government policy.

    Want power? Start a pressure group.

  • Verity

    Guy Herbert – “Want power? Start a pressure group!”

    That well-known pair of past masters at the “pressure group” con game, those twin men of the cloth, the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been working that game for around 25 years and they’ve still got the wind in their sails.

  • I think some of the people here may have got the motives behind the scheme wrong.

    The money it raises will be trivial – but it will allow Tony to improve his appeal to the nannyist anti-freedom loons (not necessarily lefties – the Daily Mail and its acolytes are just as bad) who seem to make up a scarily large proportion of the British population. Just like the probably-imminent public smoking ban, which would likely *reduce* Treasury coffers…

  • GCooper

    Guy Herbert writes:

    “….then notional academic respectability as its key activist Tim Lang got himself a chair in a discipline that his pressure group had invented.”

    “Professor” Tim Lang, aside from being one of the nastiest pieces of work I have ever had the misfortune to encounter, is a key player in this Gramscian scam.

    Another, is that noted Scottish Stalinist, “Professor” David Begg, who squats, toad-like, behind many of the transport miseries inflicted on us by the Left, including the London ‘Congestion Charge’ (sic), Livingstone’s ruinous bus policy and the Government’s attempt to destroy road transport.

    Both are of that Time Out agitprop generation and both have very considerable, unwarranted, unelected power in the Land.

    As a rider to Mr. Herbert’s last point, it’s worth counting the number of present and recent cabinet members whose sole claim to fame has been their previous involvement in single issue pressure groups during the ’70s and ’80s.

  • llamas

    Kim du Toit wrote:

    ‘Damn. Extortion so skilled is almost a thing of beauty –as long as it’s Over There.

    For God’s sake, don’t let Jesse Jackson see how it’s done, or he’ll be even worse than he is now.’

    The British have an endearing habit of littering the criminal law with descriptions of offences which are at once lyrical, succinct and exact. In this case, as in others, the description of this behaviour, if perpetrated by anyone but the State, would the the perfect Britishism – Demanding Money with Menaces.



  • A_t

    ” …the transport miseries inflicted on us by the Left, including the London ‘Congestion Charge’ (sic), Livingstone’s ruinous bus policy…”

    oh, that old chestnut again… Who’s miserable? Every time i’ve had to drive through central London recently, it’s been beautifully clear. Buses have been significantly quicker since it started, & having a clear pricing stucture has made them easier to use… Central London’s less congested & easier to get around. I guess if you’re one of the few who regularly drove into the city & can’t afford the charge, you’ll be a tad peeved… but overall the evening Standard’s doom & gloom “small businesses closing all over central London” scenario doesn’t seem to have appeared. I’m sitting here within the congestion charge zone at present, & new businesses are opening up all around me.

    I fail to see how this is a ‘socialist’ measure either, & i’m sure this was debated on this site a while back.

    So, what misery are you suffering as a result of these policies then, GCooper?

  • GCooper

    A_t writes:

    “So, what misery are you suffering as a result of these policies then, GCooper?”

    I’m paying for it.

    Presumably, given your enthusiasm for Livingstone’s folly, you aren’t.

  • A_t

    Well… I pay on the few occasions when I want/need to drive into central London on weekdays. Most of the time though, I don’t need to drive in & it’s much easier getting the train or (much quicker now, thanks!) bus.

    Are you living within the zone then, or choosing to drive into it regularly?

  • Guy Herbert

    GCooper: “[…] it’s worth counting the number of present and recent cabinet members whose sole claim to fame has been their previous involvement in single issue pressure groups during the ’70s and ’80s”

    Well I wouldn’t hold standing up for their beliefs against them. (Though I’d note the NCCL alumni seem to have misplaced those beliefs at some stage after getting into parliament.) Nor do I want to set qualifications for politicians. (No chance for me then.) What makes me queasy is a life of pressuregroupdom (e.g. Des Wilson, Sheila McKechnie), or a veiled agenda pursued indirectly by populist panicmongering.

  • GCooper

    A_t asks:

    “Are you living within the zone then, or choosing to drive into it regularly?”

    It is called Council Tax, A_t- presumably, you’ve heard of it?

    Londoners are paying a very considerable sum to subsidise Livingstone’s absurd ‘Congestion’ charge and an even greater one to feed his fetishistic affair with busses.

  • Wait for the New Budget immediately after this shower of closet Communists win the next election – there will be only two questions on the Tax Return Form –

    How much have you got?

    Where is it?

    The remainder will be a statement indicating that A0 to withold either piece of information is an offence, and B) that the Internal Revenue will remove it from your bank/building society as soon as they have the information.

  • A_t

    GCooper, yes I pay my council tax like a good little citizen, so i’ve heard of it. Do you have any figures on how much is going into the congestion charge at present? (not challenging the veracity of your statement; just curious to know the degree of drain; strangely enough, figures are not immediately forthcoming; instead one comes across the original goals, which were much trumpeted)

    Also, you can’t have it both ways… to denounce the charge for costing money, & then call it ‘congestion’ charge seems perverse; the reason it’s losing money is precisely because it’s been so effective in dissuading people from driving into central London. Hence, congestion is lessened, no? Certainly holds out in my experience as a driver/pedestrian/public transport user.

    & you may object to subsidising buses, but this is hardly an unusual situation for a city dweller. Also, libertarian ‘tax is theft’ issues aside (yes, i know, you’re all shocked), cities which have good (usually subsidised) public transport are far more pleasant places to be than ones which are car-dominated… at least in my humble opinion.

  • GUy Herbert

    There are some general figures on London’s bus subsidy here.. The last estimate I heard for the ongoing subvention to keep the Congestion Charge going was £30M (it was supposed to show a surplus in nine figures), but I can’t currently find a source.