A ban on wine gums at the checkout? The scary thought is Cameron might back it

The Conservative party is a broad church but is it really broad enough to accommodate Dr Sarah Wollaston? The honourable member for the British Medical Association is at it again in today’s newspapers, demanding people pay more for their food. ‘It is a staggering fact’, she said, ‘that around 40 per cent of what we spend on consumption of food and drink at home comes from price promotions’. This clearly displeases her. Having gone from a well paid job in medicine to a well paid job in politics, she can afford to be displeased.

Wollaston wants the government to ‘tackle’ the alleged problem of cheap food. She also wants to tell shopkeepers where to position their goods, explaining her reasons in words so pathetic it almost makes me weep:

‘Do I want to have a kilogram of chocolate for almost nothing when I buy my newspaper? Of course I do but please don’t offer it to me, please don’t make me pass the chicanes of sugar at the checkout while queuing to pay for petrol.’

Younger readers may not know this, but at one time the Conservatives were reputed to be the party of free markets and personal responsibility. In 2016, however, it is a party for people – grown, adult human beings, mind – begging to have sweets put out of their reach on other people’s property and pleading with petrol station attendants to put wine gums on the top shelf.

Wollaston does not tell us what the government should do about this first world problem. Being both a politician and a doctor, she presumably wants a ban. Perhaps a new criminal offence could be created to stop BP placing ‘chicanes of sugar’ (ie, confectionery shelves) within sight of innocent motorists. A new Act of Parliament could be drawn up to make it illegal to offer a bar of chocolate to someone without their prior consent.

It is not a novel observation to suggest that Sarah Wollaston joined the wrong party. A scarier thought is that she joined exactly the right party. No one ever struggled to tell the difference between Gordon Brown and a laissez-faire libertarian, but nor did anyone believe he would seriously consider a tax on fizzy pop. He rejected minimum pricing for alcohol because it would have clobbered the poor and would, I am sure, have rejected a sugar tax for the same reason.

David Cameron, by contrast, was personally in favour of minimum pricing and has said that a sugar tax is still on the table. Today, there is a letter in the Guardian (where else?) from the usual ‘public health’ groups demanding a sugar tax. It is all part of a well organised and incessant campaign that has been running for the last two years. There was no talk of a sugar tax under Blair or Brown. There would have been no point. Under Cameron, however, the nanny statists are more hopeful. Why wouldn’t they be? He has capitulated on everything from the plastic bag tax to plain packaging.

If this is the modern Conservative party, you can keep it.

Christopher Snowdon will be speaking at the Spectator’s annual health debate at IET London, Savoy Place, on Tuesday February 9

Health-advice-700x350-1Join The Spectator for our annual health debate:
Can we trust health advice?
9 February 2016 | 7 p.m. | IET London
Book now

  • Peem Birrell

    A kilogram of chocolate? What’s the difference between

  • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

    Why doesn’t she just pay at the pump and avoid the shop altogether?

  • nisakiman

    She obviously has no control over her greed, poor woman, but why must she assume that everyone else is as weak-willed as she is?

    I used to vote Conservative years ago, but nowadays you can’t slide a fag paper between them and Blair.

    • Peter

      I joined the Conservative Party as soon as I moved here and allowed it to lapse after it became apparent that in Cameron, we had a cuckservative who could almost win elections but would not improve our lot.
      At the last GE, I did not vote Conservative and the sitting candidate lost by fewer than 300 votes. This left me with a heavy heart as the incumbent was a good egg.

  • James Pickett

    Has she ever thought of using a shopping list? And where does the ‘40% on..price promotions’ come from, and why would it matter anyway? The only thing I object to is being told what I should and should not be eating!

  • gray cooper

    Because politicians are infants is why they have no credibility.

  • willwilliams

    How brave of Dr Woollaston to confess she is unable to make the ‘right’ choice when doing the family shop.

    I may not support her overall position but if she could do something about the offers at the till at W H Smith, would I be alone in thanking her?

  • flydlbee

    What is she doing in the Conservative Party if she doesn’t support Conservative values? She should take her nanny-state ideals back to the Labour Party and preach at us from there.

    • Mary Ann

      Because it is the Tories who are the nanny state party not Labour.

  • splotchy

    Wollaston’s ‘logic’ comes from the fact that we all pay for the treatment required by those who gluttonise on sugar, either in our taxes, or by our being further down the queue for treatment, given they are overwhelming the nhs.

    My solution would not be to charge sugar-chompers more – that would penalise those who are poor and end up denied the odd treat. But I would support those with lifestyle illnesses contributing more to their health care – or simply not having state-funded treatment that would acheive the same results as their having some restraint. Why should we fund eg gastric bands (risky, costly and long term side effects), when the same result is achievable through eating sensibly?

    People choose what to eat and drink and whether to keep fit – and should be free to do so. But with perhaps we should lean to the view of that freedom having consequence.

    • Mary Ann

      But they don’t live so long so less state pension, and if you die of a heart attack at seventy rather than live to a hundred, and spend your last ten years in and out of hospital because bits of you are wearing out it ends up a lot cheaper.