The Nanny State Strikes Back | William Yarwood


As the government begins to ease large swathes of its lockdown laws, thus allowing for a wide array of businesses, shops and, most importantly and excitingly, pubs to open their doors for the first time in months, many are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as they can now try to go back to their normal working and entertainment habits – albeit with social distancing measures still in place.

Naturally, one of the things that people are most excited about doing is having take aways, going out to eat at their favourite restaurants and going to the pub. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has even encouraged people via his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme which would see the slashing of VAT on food, restaurants and pubs down to 5% as well as giving each person a 50% discount (up to £10 per head) on meals at a wide array of different establishments up and down the country. This all comes as a way to boost British businesses after months of economic inactivity as well as to encourage people to go back to their daily lives and enjoy the things they have not been able to enjoy because of Coronavirus. A most welcome idea.

While I am elated at all this, there has been one pernicious thing that has reared its head again and seeks to strike back against the government and the ordinary citizen’s seeming enthusiasm to promote eating out and going to the pub; the ugly head of the nanny state.

Nanny state puritans, angry that the general populous is now allowed to go about their normal drinking and eating habits again, have opened their mouths lately – not to praise the government’s programme for getting the economy back on track or for them to enjoy the taste of a pint of ale or a burger – but to complain and bang on about the scourge of obesity. The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has been criticised by anti-obesity campaigners, as the scheme would not discriminate on whether a meal was considered healthy or not with Tam Fry, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, saying that this has given businesses “the green light to promote any old junk menu that the participating restaurant feels it can get away with.” Yes, how dare those businesses allow people, after they have been locked inside for over three months, to enjoy an unhealthy meal or two – the bastards.

But the puritans are not stopping there. A cross party group in the House of Lords is tabling an ‘emergency’ amendment in order to try and crack down on people smoking outside of pubs and restaurants. Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Northover, is one of the members supporting the amendment saying that the government’s easing of the lockdown “should not allow this to become an excuse for increasing smoking in public places.” Baroness Northover seems confused on what being a liberal actually entails but hey she was appointed to the House of Lords under Tony Blair and was also an Oxford academic; so naturally she understands what the average working man wants about as well as a rhinoceros understands the intricacies of quantum physics. And to top it all off Boris Johnson, long-time opponent of the nanny state, has suddenly become its newest protégé. He has given into those criticising the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme by introducing new rules on businesses offering deals on unhealthy foods and meal deals. A tragic Damascene conversion for our once seemingly sound PM.

All of this is occurring because obesity and smoking have been blamed for increasing the risk of catching Coronavirus. Therefore, this is an attempt to prevent people, who are attempting to get back to normal, from becoming infected by engaging in their normal habits. While I could explain why these claims are based upon bunk research, Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, has already done a great piece taking apart the claims that obesity and smoking increase one’s chance of getting Covid-19, as well as digging into Boris’s new war on obesity.

What I feel I need to highlight is how little people seem to realise that they are allowing themselves to continue to be conned by both Public Health England and supposedly benevolent health campaigners. The Coronavirus crisis has unfortunately led to a greater increase in the size of the state in both economic and social life and this, combined with the last 25 years of state interference, more and more people are becoming docile, apathetic and even ignorant to the level of interference the state has over their life. We should not allow post-Covid Britain to fall ripely into the hands of those who seek to ‘save us from ourselves’ via the regulation of the food, drinks, and activities that we British enjoy: we are better than that. It is high time that we start to reassert the importance of choice and individual responsibility over the ethos of the current nanny state orthodoxy and getting oneself educated on the failures of the nanny state is of upmost importance as well as the theories that go behind it – ‘Killjoys’ by Chris Snowdon is a great place to start.

But in another way, the way in which to fight these neo-paternalists and puritans is actually by doing the one thing that they do not want you to be doing – enjoying yourself.

So go to the pub and drink to your hearts content while sharing cigarettes with your mates, order a take away for the whole family and wash it all down with glasses of fizzy drink and the next time you go shopping treat yourself to a packet of sweets and large bottle of wine. Not only are you helping businesses get back on their feet, you are giving the middle figure to the M&S suit wearing clipboard carrying puritans of Whitehall.

Do not allow them to capitalise on the post-Coronavirus message. Do not allow them to social engineer you into a health crazed work machine. Attack their bunk theories and graphs with intelligence and vigour, and together we can push back hard against the puritans that have been running the show for decades. As one health pandemic leaves let us not give into those who would seek to enforce another one upon us.


“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.”


Jack London

Photo by Fritz PPics on Flickr.

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