It was depressing to once more read claptrap from a politician who wants to micro-manage our lives. Even more sadly, it wasn’t the likes of Clueless Clegg and Call me Dave. This time it was the Labour Party’s token frontbench socialist, Diane Abbott. It’s sad because Ms Abbott has a degree of credibility and is a good communicator. However, she seems to have fallen foul of the classic politician’s curse: to talk bollocks about something they know little about.
In a wide-ranging interview, the shadow public health minister outlines her views on several issues that affect society. So far, so good. But, oh dear, she soon loses the plot and starts firing off ideas that are about as appealing as a fart in a cosmonaut’s spacesuit. Focusing on popular targets, obesity and alcohol, she said local authorities should be given stronger powers to ban the spread of fried chicken shops and other fast food outlets, and end the sale of cheap (uh-huh) alcohol from corner shops, especially near schools.
Now no one likes state intervention more than me. Proper state intervention. Real state intervention. Pubs to be given preferential treatment. Beer tax to be abolished. That sort of thing. Clear and with a purpose. However, it’s not to be used as a panacea for perceived social problems that governments are too lazy or stupid to address properly. If for no other reason than the best: it doesn’t work. These sort of ill-conceived ideas of fiddling on the periphery of the problem are like pissing on your (soon to be banned) chips.
Kids are getting fatter. The Abbott solution: “make it easier for local authorities to ban not just McDonald's, but those chicken and chip shops that cluster around schools.” Well the fact is that local councils love these shops as they are a good source of revenue. And there have always been chip shops etc near schools. As far as I am aware it is not (yet) illegal to sell such foodstuffs. Am I to be deprived of my chip muffin supply because little John Smith is a porker? Selling off school playing fields and the abolition of the dreaded compulsory cross-country run are surely better targets.
But there’s worse, in the form of every current politician’s bête noire, alcohol. Abbott’s pearls of wisdom on this: “When you talk about alcoholism, people think in terms of pubs and bars.” Personally I think of the local tramp or perhaps the secret heavy drinker at home, but please go on. “The real issue is access to alcohol, and the grocery shops and sweet shops that sell alcohol.” And wait for it, “In some streets, every other shop is selling alcohol at prices cheaper than Coca Cola.”
At least it’s not the old “cheaper than water” myth, but honestly. Alcoholism is a serious issue, albeit for a minority of people. Its causes are complex and it is nearly always a symptom of an underlying disorder. Repeating Daily Mail propaganda and targeting corner shops as a solution is risible. So what if the shop is near a school? Yes, kids do buy underage booze-I did-but that is what enforcement of licensing is for. Where there are children, there are also adults who Ms Abbott would see deprived of the right to buy alcohol for no proven reason.
Diane Abbott is also in favour of the 50p minimum alcohol pricing plan. Quellle surprise. Of course on her earnings, dining and drinking aren’t a problem. But there is some irony in that this faux socialist and self-proclaimed feminist seems keen to restrict the choices for those she claims to represent most: working class women.