Boris says he wants to roll back the nanny state.
It’s a neat trick, and swathes of natural conservatives will be delighted. Until they look at the small print. Then they will realise that they’ve been had.
Boris Johnson will end the “continuing creep of the nanny state” if he becomes prime minister, starting with a review of so-called “sin taxes” on sugary, salty and fatty foods.
The former foreign secretary wants to reverse the interventionist policies pursued by Theresa May and David Cameron in favour of a more liberal agenda.
He believes that taxes on less healthy foods “clobber those who can least afford it” and should be halted unless there is clear evidence that they work.
In what he says, he is narrowly correct – sin taxes are regressive. They have no effect on affluent people, and far far more impact on people with smaller incomes.
But his fine words butter no parsnips, I’m afraid.
There is a significant gulf between what I consider to be the scope of the nanny state, and the things that Boris looks to be targeting. His tantalising promise is merely that he would be ‘starting with’ taxes on food that tastes of anything. But the reach of the nanny state is like that of a fibrous abdominal tumour that has wended its way around all the vital internal organs that keep us living.
It is everything from 5-a-day campaigns, to the way you are talked to by doctors in the NHS if you consume even the published allowance of alcohol. When I was in hospital, the pharmacist visited my bed to understand my needs. He asked my how much I drink, and I said about 20-25 units a week. This pasty-faced, pudgy millenial fuck pursed his lips and said “would you like me to send someone you can talk to about that?”
In any case, much of the nanny state is administered well outside of the Prime Minister’s sphere of influence. Do you imagine Boris is going to be able to have Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) disbanded? What would lifelong chugger and hector Deborah Arnott do then? And Action on Salt, which is a band of well funded academics? And Action on Sugar, which is the same people as Action on Salt?
Do you imagine that the sptefully designed smoking ban will be relaxed to allow businessmen to choose whether they cater to a smoking crowd or a non-smoking crowd, or find enterprising ways to accomodate both? Don’t be surprised, by the way, if we end up with legalised weed, and the same absurd situation that you get in Amsterdam, where you can only smoke weed inside the coffeeshops, but you can only smoke tobacco outside, making the traditional joint impossible, and the tendency to over-do the high-strength weed all the more present.
Do you think he’s going to be able to roll back the crazy legal environment in which no-one is held responsible for their actions, and corporations are cash cows for lawyers and their grasping indolent clients?
Perhaps he’ll stop the ever-lowering speed limits, ditch the cash-cow speed cameras, and end the perpetual emphasis on safety uber alles? Will the BRAKE charity be shut down, having been run for 24 years by deluded do-gooding scold Mary Williams who has lobbied continuously for new measures to impede motorists and promote no-one dying ever, especially not from their own stupidity?
Do you suppose that a food industry that has invested billions in technologies and techniques to conform with prevailing standards set by nanny, are just going to abandon these, and along with them, reject the government’s gift of being able to reduce portion sizes while still charging the same price?
There are plenty more examples of Nanny Statism here, that Boris will find himself unwilling or unable to undermine.
So what’s he going to do? Hold a consultation where only those with a vested interest in making money and sticking their beaks in people’s lives actually get a meaningful say? I should think that will be the extent of it. I find it unlikely that he’ll opt for what is the only strategic way to put the genie back in the bottle, which is to banish women – font of every last bit of this egregious meddling – from all positions of public influence.
And let us not forget that while Boris was the mayor of London, he implemented a number of policies straight out of Nanny’s big book of bullying. City Hall became the first government building to have its own sugar tax, and consumption of alcohol was banned on the Transport for London network.
At the helm, Boris is clearly quite happy to grease the squeaky wheel for a quiet life, and there is no squeakier wheel than those posessed of the puritanical urge to make us into greyer, duller, more malleable and conformist people, and there’s no grease like that supplied by corporate lobbyists, who love regulations that hurt their smaller competitors.
At least if we assume that every word out of Boris’ mouth is utter bollocks, there is the faintest sliver of a chance that we will at some point be pleasantly, if fleetingly, surprised. On the other hand, anyone stupid enough to take him at his word has clearly not been paying attention for the last 20 years, to him or to the batallions of malignant do-gooders that have woven themself into the national fabric.
That he is our great white hope is a depressing state of affairs.