Monday, 10 November 2008

The icecream cones hotline

I have mentioned before how a government that runs out of ideas turns to gimmicks, just like situation comedies which have exhausted their comic situation but can't break free from the addiction of ratings. They have been coming thick and fast over recent weeks with ministerial toes dipped into stagnant waters full of windmills, population limits, the censoring of blogs, under the counter cigarettes and much more. Today witnessed a bumper crop. In addition to tax cuts which will be nothing of the sort and evicting decent people from council houses to give priority to the feckless they also managed to squeeze out a true turkey of a proposal, on a par with John Major's motorway cones hotline. Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, announced a scheme to give £30million to nine towns to pay for attempts to get people to take more exercise and eat more healthily.

Yet another massive chunk of money they don't have to do something that is already being done in a futile attempt to change the ways of people who just aren't interested. One can't fault the intention behind it. Idle fat slobs like me should eat less and exercise more, but what do they really think they can achieve?

How are they going to get us to the sports centre? I heard someone from one of the lucky councils warbling on the radio this afternoon about "empowering" the obese to get to a gym. The obese don't need empowering, we know where the gym is, we could walk there if we wanted to or get the bus, that's all the power it takes. We don't go because we don't want to. There is talk of incentives being offered, attend three times and get the fourth session for free. That's how we buy our cakes, for us it doesn't work for a gym. There's no cream and icing in a gym. In any event, every gym runs that sort of promotion from time to time because they know it can achieve two things, it encourages those who are keen but haven't yet got round to it to start attending and it drags in a few hopeful fatties who pay for one or two visits then remember why they gave up gyms years ago and never get as far as the free session.

And then there are the healthy eating initiatives. Lose so much weight and you get a voucher for a free sprig of broccoli. No, sorry, that is not what taxpayers' money is for. One thing which would surprise Mr Johnston is that an awful lot of us fatties eat sensible balanced diets, we just eat more of them than we should. I can't eat any more runner beans and savoy cabbage than I do, it simply isn't physically possible. Those who have reached the age of 30 and never been seduced by a nice sweet parsnip are so unlikely to turn in droves to the organic veggie counter at Lidl that there really is no point trying. OK, fine, some will change. One in a thousand will relinquish the fried chipped potato and have boiled spuds or a dollop of mash instead. One in a hundred might be encouraged to add a small spoon of peas or a few carrot batons to that tiny part of their plate not laden with gristle pie and lardy gravy. But that cannot begin to justify such vast expenditure.

Where do they think the fatties have been for the last twenty years or so? Endless cookery programmes litter the televisions and receive high viewing figures, yet fewer and fewer people seem to be prepared to take the time to cook rather than buying a ready meal for one from the "sad loners" section of the supermarket. The message of organic this, free-range that, wholemeal something else has been crammed at us for years and years and years, but still people buy sliced white loaves of tasteless, unwholesome, underdone cotton wool. A valiant attempt to return school food to the standard I used to enjoy: meat, veg, spuds, pud with custard was pressed as hard as any attempt at public education in history, and what happened? Those who eat well because their parents feed them well continued to eat well while those with retarded parents were fed chips and crisps through the school fence by a bunch of moronic, fat, greasy-haired baggages in dirty black leggings. How on earth is it thought that a mother who brings up her children on salty fatty processed muck with as much nutritional value as roll of loft lagging is going to change not only her own attitude but also that of her stubborn and stupid children? It can happen to one or two here or there, just as one or two awful golfers will score a hole in one each year. But it will not happen en masse and anyone who thinks it might is deluding no one other than themselves.

Poor Mr Johnson says he's trying to save umpteen billions currently spent by the NHS each year treating the overly plump. Trying to change ingrained habits at huge cost is not the way to do it. The thing is, Mr Johnson is a bright fellow unlike most of his cabinet colleagues. He must know this is just a futile exercise in window dressing, a big pre-election poster reading "we're doing something because we care". It is a gimmick pure and simple because they have run out of substantive ideas. Just like the cones hotline, only far more expensive.


Old Holborn said...

Fancy a burger in a layby?

Not any more. Have some tofu


TheFatBigot said...

I would say that really takes the biscuit, Mr Holborn, but no doubt it would have to be a raffia biscuit made with non-fat fat.