A couple of days ago I wrote a poorly researched blog entry which covered, broadly, what the political leaders or their parties had to say on the subject of obesity.
After I wrote it I realised that, in my wishy washy way, I hadn't really made any comment on what I thought of all this. I didn't want to upset anybody who might read this blog. In the same way that I never mention God, and try not to swear, I choose not to make my position on political matters clear. People who know me know where I actually stand on all these matters, and people who don't know me... well, I'm not sure anybody is reading this and I should really not care too much if my opinions aren't the same as everybody else's. Apparently that is how the world works.
The other thing that holds me back from actually stating an opinion is that I worry about not having actual facts at my fingertips, that I will say something wildly stupid. I don't think about things as much as some people I know and so a lot of my opinions are semi-formed, nebulous things which, under scrutiny, will turn out to be built on foundations of jelly.
But today, because I am a bit lazy and I can just cut and paste this from a comment I wrote on Facebook, here is what I thought of what the leaders have to say. And I think their opinions on fatness are reflective of what they think about a lot of things, about the balance between personal responsibility and the responsibility of the state, and about which direction they point their fingers of blame when they are trying to scare us into voting for them (that would be either down at the powerless who are portrayed as an amorphous mass of slavering scroungers/immigrants/benefits cheats or up at the powerful who are portrayed as an amorphous mass of slavering bankers/ fat cats/ tax dodging cheats) And the question is...who can do more harm to society the powerless or powerful? But who could do the most good to society - the powerless or the powerful. And who do we want to give more power to?
Anyway, this was my Facebook comment (I may be lazy, but look up there, I too the time to draw a picture of me in some jelly using the lovely Coloursoft pencils Denise gave me as an Easter present)
"The general tenor of the comments of the political leaders on obesity is that some parties see obesity as an issue which is characterised by scroungers on benefits who can't control their appetites even when it means that the NHS has to fund their extravagant eating and that bloody Europe will make us treat them as being disabled, or it is an issue which affects a lot of people who would benefit from some initiatives to help tackle obesity in the general population. The first group will fight for the right of big businesses to sell as much crappy food and drink and fags to us as possible whilst cutting the margins of food producers as much as possible. The second group will maybe think that higher taxes on some things are a price we must pay to discourage the buying of crappy food, of paying for sports facilities for public use, of helping those people (and there aren't really that many) who have serious health problems related to their weight. I'm guessing that most of the obese in this country are, as I am, in paid employment. Luckily I'm no longer morbidly obese. Now I'm just an overweight burden on society."
And that is all my semi-formed opnions have to say...for now.
After the excitement(?) of the leaders’ debate last night and in the run up to the 2015 General Election, I thought it would be fascinating(?) to look at what the leaders have to say on the subject of obesity. And then, because I am lazy, and because it is not fascinating, I simply typed each of the leaders’ names into Google with the word ‘obesity’ and used one of the results that came up first.
So here we have those results. I suspect it will come as no surprise to anybody how this all pans out, but I’m going to put Nigel Farage in first because he’s the one who is obviously going to say that fat people are lazy, work-shy scroungers who just need a bit of a kick up the arse and a bit more will power.
"Wouldn't it be funny if McDonald's had a special bay for overweight people so they can park straight outside?"
This is why politicians don't do stand up comedy...
In context, Nigel Farage is commenting on the idea that obesity is a form of disability…
"I think that we view disability as being something that happens unfortunately to quite a lot of people through no fault of their own - a genetic problem, a horrible accident, mental problems, whatever.
"People don't choose to be disabled, absolutely not. I think it is quite difficult in the case of overweight people that it is a disability, because it is something - it may sound harsh - that they can actually do something about.
"There are some rare exceptions. But if somebody is very overweight and facing a life-threatening operation, the surgeon says 'Lose a couple of stone, come back in six weeks, and we'll do the operation.'"
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party has this to say…
“We're not suddenly all suffering from a failure of willpower, less morally upright than our grandparents' and earlier generations.
“What we've done is changed our environment. Most critically of all we've moved away from active forms of transport - walking and cycling - to cars, and made the roads so frightening and hostile that few choose those cheap and healthy options.
“There is no magic solution but a range of sensible government measures: making 20mph the standard speed limit everywhere people live, work and shop, providing excellent pedestrian and cycle facilities, limiting advertising of junk food, particularly to children, and tackling fresh food "desserts" would be a good start, and not expensive considering the benefits.
“There's broader cultural/policy issues too: our long-hours culture encourages people to think they don't have time to cook fresh, healthy food, poverty draws parents to apparently cheap and "safe" food they know their children will eat, like chicken nuggets and chips, lack of education on cooking in schools leaves young people without basic skills.”
And Nicola Sturgeon off of the SNP said this, several years ago when she was Cabinet Secretary of Healthy and Wellbeing in the Scottish Parliament…
"Obesity is an increasing problem and poses a very serious threat to our nation's health. That is why we have made tackling obesity, particularly in early life, a key priority."
"As a nation we all have a part to play in addressing our sometimes unhealthy approach to food, weight and physical activity. We want to provide an environment that makes it easier for people to make healthy choices in what they eat and be more active in everyday life.”
And Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood has this to say…
Well, I couldn’t find anything she actually said on the subject but the headlines were all about Plaid Cymru introducing a Pop Tax which could help 20000 overweight people in Wales lose weight by adding an extra 20% to the cost of fizzy drinks.
Nick Clegg says, "The evidence, and Jamie will know this, is overwhelming that we’ve got far too many kids, who are poor, but not receiving free school meals, who are turning up at school with a can of something, and a slice of white bread with some chocolate paste on it, and they’re failing to concentrate in the afternoon.
"Their education is suffering, and their health is suffering as well, and they are often then on the early steps towards obesity."
Nick loves to mention the name of the person who asks a question, because it proves he can remember names. In this case it was easy because it was a celebrity called Jamie who was keen to get good free school meals available to everyone and that this would, "prove to be one of the biggest, best achievements in order to address precisely what Jamie’s been campaigning on."
Labour leader Ed Milliband does not like to mention obesity because he is a ‘nice’ left wing intellectual who doesn’t like to draw attention to other people’s shortcomings (by which I mean obesity) but the Daily Mail says that Nasty Ed “will FORCE you to get fit (so that's no Frosties, fags or 'pre-loading' booze)” like stopping people doing any of those things is a bad thing. The Daily Mail also says, “Ed Miliband wants half of the adult population to take regular exercise within ten years of him becoming Prime Minister.” Basically, this…
And finally, David Cameron, (and to balance my reporting of the Daily Mail on Ed Milliband I am going for the Guardian on David Cameron) who is a ‘nice’ Conservative and so wouldn’t (out loud) like to say anything horrible about a fatty, has said, according to the Guardian, that “people who cannot work because they are overweight or suffering addiction problems could be threatened with losing their sickness benefits if they do not accept treatment” and “the Conservatives will consider whether to reduce payments worth about £100 a week for those they consider could do more to help themselves by going on medical programmes designed to make them to lose weight, stop taking drugs or give up alcohol.”
So there you have it. A fascinating (?) insight into what the political parties have to say about the fat. Or just a load of people saying that we should probably do something about the generally high levels of obesity.
So no help when it comes to deciding who to vote for.
Hi, I'm Andy, serial weight gainer. My year of dieting is over! But you can still give money to Shelter or the PDSA!