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Dismantling health policy, not just the NHS

It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at Lansley’s ridiculous proposal to put fast food companies and processed food and drink manufacturers in charge of UK health policy.   It certainly indicates that Cameron’s vision isn’t about Big Society, it’s about Big Business.   There are plenty of images that come to mind: it’s like allowing the tobacco industry to decide smoking policy, or letting the inmates run the asylum, or putting the burglars and muggers in charge of criminal justice.   But Lansley isn’t a fool; he must know this is a daft idea.  No, what this absurdity reveals is that for this Tory Government, as for New Labour before it, the real objective is not the public interest, but rather corporate control.

As has been repeatedly reasserted by dietary experts, the dangers to health come especially from salt, sugar, polysaturated fats, and alcohol.   For the commercial manufacturers of these products, the aim is to maximize their sales and their profits, which is diametrically opposite to a policy of restrained intake.  The idea that setting up ‘responsibility deal’ networks (spin code for empowering the offenders) will resolve the problem, rather than exacerbate it, is barmy.   But voluntary exhortation rather than regulation is not a new idea.   It was of course one of Blair’s key axioms, and we are now seeing the perversity of this policy, as started by New Labour, taken to even greater extremes.

Even so, it’s breathtaking that the Tories dare to extend the policy of corporate deregulation into the profoundly sensitive area of healthy food.   Neither New Labour nor the Tories can seriously believe that a voluntary approach will change anything significant whatsoever when it comes to issues of deep contention.   It shows just how far the governance of British society, not just the British economy, is now being handed over to corporate interests wholesale, with both New Labour and the Tories role-playing as mere political ciphers of these interests.

From a domestic policy standpoint, there is now no greater need in Britain than for a fundamental revival of the public interest and the whole ethos of communal accountability.   The policy of putting the big corporates in charge of reducing obesity, which they themselves have caused and massively encouraged, as well as other unhealthy dietary developments will soon be revealed for the shallow farce it is.   Only a major forceful public campaign exposing the dangers of sugary processed foods, polysaturated fats and transfats, over-salty diets, and excess alcohol together with ‘traffic light’ warnings and other regulatory measures (including deterrent pricing) will restore logic and sanity in this area.   Maybe a first for the post-New Labour health policy?

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