Monday, February 22, 2010

The health police assesseth us

I don’t need the Government to tell me I’ve put on weight – I’ve got a wife who is quite happy to do the job for them.

She’s ordered me to spend the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent on the wagon, without booze, dry and alcohol-free.

Not because I’m a big drinker, you understand, merely because I’m just a bit bigger than I used to be – I may have a bit of a spare tyre but I’m not a Michelin man.

Gone are the glass of wine with dinner, the lunch-time pint or the necessary Scotch when I’m watching England stumble their way through another Six Nations rugby international.

I agreed to this appalling regime on condition I don’t have to drink tap water. The bottled stuff may be almost as expensive as a stiff gin and tonic but at least it doesn’t smell of chlorine.

Whether this self-denying ordinance will have any effect on my weight, I have no idea. It’s years since we had bathroom scales in our house and I have no intention of finding out what the score is now.

Admittedly all the evidence suggests I am a pound or two over my fighting weight. Actually, a stone or two but what’s a bit of extra flesh between friends?

Middle-aged men like me with Party Sevens where we used to have six packs are the target of the latest waste-of-money campaign aimed at making us lose weight.

The Government’s health police are spending £75 million of our money targeting fat gits like me in an attempt to reduce Britain’s alleged obesity epidemic.

We’re being told what to eat, ordered to stop watching telly, start playing football and – God forbid – encouraged to get up and dance to the radio.

The idea of several million dad-rockers boogying round the kitchen playing air guitar and strutting their arthritic stuff is enough to send self-respecting teenagers running for the hills.

Yet the Government is encouraging this. Perhaps they should challenge us to dig out our old loon pants and see if we can still get into them.

Thanks to a decade of binge-spending, the Government is being forced to put the obese public finances on a strict diet for the foreseeable future.

It must surely have better things to do with a spare £75 million than preach at fat blokes.

This new campaign, called Change4Life, has its own hideous website with the usual lurid colours, nursery-school graphics and pointless slogan: “Eat well. Move more. Live longer.”

If you sign up for this campaign they’ll send you a booklet, a quiz, a wall-chart and “a tool set” which, I assume, has nothing to do with spanners and pliers.

Actually, if you really want to lose weight, all you need to do is stop eating so much and take more exercise. It is that simple.

The other day I had lunch with an ex-soldier who spent the entire time telling me how marvellous his new diet was.

He was proud of the fact that he’d lost a stone while his wife had only lost half that. He went on and on about how many points he was allowed to consume per day, and what each dish or drink cost in points.

He was delighted that he’d taken the dog for a walk and earned himself some extra points – and it seems, to weight-watchers, points mean prizes.

While I ate fishcakes and chips washed down with a glass of wine (this was just before Shrove Tuesday), he nibbled at a piece of lettuce and drank water.

It wasn’t the Government which drove him to these desperate remedies, it was his wife.

He certainly didn’t start snacking on mini-tomatoes instead of Mars Bars because the health police told him to.

True, you only have to walk down any High Street to spot real porkers – they’re usually stuffing their faces with burgers and chips as they waddle along.

But it’s unlikely they will suddenly see the light and abandon their full-fat Cokes just because some anonymous civil servant tells them to do a bit of gardening instead of watching the telly.

And it’s even less likely they will rush off to some NHS website and sign up for the booklets, wall-charts and “tool sets” on offer from the health police desperate to use up a spare £75 million before the end of this financial year.

This health-and-fitness campaign is only one small aspect of the Government-knows-best nannying and nagging we all have to endure these days.

The way they go on, you’d think we were all dying earlier than ever before rather than living longer and more healthy lives than at any time in our history.

Those of us who eat a bit too much and drink more than is really good for us actually know when we have indulged a little excessively.

We’re quite capable of looking after ourselves, thank you very much and, if we start going to seed most of us have loved ones who will pretty soon bring us into line. Even if their nagging does drive you to drink.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The playing fields of Eton

“No, you’re wrong, I’m right,” as David Cameron would say.

His latest tirade against his own supporters is over the imposition of candidate shortlists featuring mainly women and members of various ethnic minorities:

“And just in case there is anyone out there who still thinks that the work we’ve done to get more women candidates, more black and minority ethnic candidates... that this is some kind of political correctness that Conservatives should avoid, I would say no. You’re wrong.

“It is in the best traditions of our Party... the one nation tradition of Benjamin Disraeli, and it should inspire us again today. Unless you can represent everyone in our country you cannot be a one nation party.

“And that one nation tradition lives on in the Conservative Party not just in the candidates we’re selecting but in the issues that we’re addressing too."

Alas, he’s missing the point. The members are not prejudiced in favour of white, heterosexual, middle-class, balding, middle-aged men like David Cameron.

What they object to – and object to vehemently – is that they have been stripped of the power to interview applicants, draw up their own shortlists and make their own choice.

That has nothing to do with sexism or racism and everything to do with “localism” which, in other circumstances, Mr Cameron would allegedly support.

The other point Mr Cameron must address is whether he is serious about the idea that the party must really “represent everyone in our country” because if he is, then perhaps he could tell us how many candidates in winnable seats are over 65.

After all, the largest single “minority” in Britain is the 16 per cent of the population over the age of 65 (expected to reach 23 per cent by 2033). How many of Cameron’s cuties are in their late sixties or older, I wonder.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How CCHQ stamps out dissent

Amid the rows over centrally-imposed candidates lists for safe Conservative seats, here’s another question many activists would like an answer to: Why does CCHQ never bother to answer their letters?

I know of several long-standing members of the party, councillors, fund-raisers and knockers-on-doors who have written to Eric Pickles and his crew over the past few weeks.

Their letters tend to be questioning the selection process and the high-handed approach adopted by the Cameroons.

Nobody wants to rock the boat too violently with a General Election in the offing. But they would like answers to their modest and carefully written questions.

Yet no reply is ever forthcoming. Not a dicky-bird.

Would the party tolerate this off-hand attitude among its MPs or candidates? It would not.

So why is CCHQ so rude to its own most loyal supporters? This arrogance is extraordinary and will, in the long run, rebound on the party to its detriment.

Disillusion at behaviour of Pickles and his officials is now so widespread it wouldn’t be surprising if many of the most willing and generous supporters simply gave up and walked away.

Maybe not now, maybe not for this election, but soon. Soon enough to create the Polo-mint effect – that the party is sugary sweet on the outside but has lost its centre.

This has done infinite damage to the Labour Party over the past 13 years. It will do exactly the same to the Conservatives unless Cameron’s cronies wake up to the fact that there is more to the party, and more to politics, than their heavy-handed, centralised control.

The least they could do to stop the core of the party melting away is answer people’s letters. But even that seems to be too much trouble. Or are they paying their “political advisers” so much money now that CCHQ can’t afford the cost of a second class stamp?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oh my God darling, it's too too terrible - a white middle class male

Amazing. The Stratford on Avon Conservatives actually managed to get one of their chosen candidates onto the shortlist of six imposed on them by CCHQ for the selection of a replacement for John Maples.

Maples, the head of the party’s candidates’ department, shafted his own association by delaying his announcement of retirement until into the New Year when he, more than anyone, knew it would be too late for the locals to hold a proper selection process.

Instead of advertising the vacancy, sifting through the applications, and then inviting shortlisted candidates for one or more rounds of interview, the Stratford Conservatives were lumbered with a centrally-imposed shortlist.

Stratford has a patchy record in candidate selection. Previous incumbents include John Profumo and the turncoat Alan Howarth.

Still, at least Philip Seccombe has made the cut. He’s worked tirelessly for the party locally and it would be a fantastic achievement to get selected for the Stratford constituency. Nothing less than he deserves.

Of course, Philip won’t be CCHQ’s choice. They will doubtless want one of Cameron's cuties or some London lawyer who can’t actually place Shipston on Stour on a map, did once enjoy the RSC’s production of “Much Ado” (at the National) and assumes "Stratford" is somewhere in East London.

I notice that with over a week to go, one of the other candidates is already describing herself as “The Next Voice For Stratford On Avon”.

Surely the members in Stratford will do what they can to defend what’s left of democracy in their party and select someone who they know, trust and respect rather than yet another Notting Hill carpet-bagger.

Unfortunately Philip suffers from a handicap which, in the New Model Tory Party may be fatal: he is a white, middle-aged, heterosexual man.

I do hope the locals won’t hold that against him.

The rest is silence....

Enoch Powell was right to warn that uncontrolled immigration would change the country dramatically.

That’s what I said when I “embarrassed” the Conservative Party so much I was thereafter blackballed as a Parliamentary candidate.

But it seems even Enoch didn’t realise quite how prophetic he was being. It’s reasonable to assume he had no idea that 30 years after his “Rivers of Blood” speech we’d get a Government determined to do that very thing – change the country dramatically.

Labour’s immigration policies – or, to be more accurate, Labour’s open-house policy – have been a cause for controversy for many years.

Now, though, we have confirmation of what many of us suspected all along. The open-house policy was not the result only of the party’s belief that the economy could only be sustained by large-scale immigration.

It was a calculated, deliberate – and secret- policy of social engineering. Labour wants a multi-cultural society, for its own sake, and in order to “rub the Right’s noses in it”.

Of course there’s the additional benefit from Labour’s point of view that it is traditionally the party which gets the votes of these hundreds of thousands of people who are encouraged to come into Britain.

But over the past decade, the Conservative Party has pussyfooted around the fringes of this debate for fear of being branded racist.

Buffoons like the disgraced Peter Hain, back in Government despite some sharp practice on the financial front, exploit every opportunity to attack “the racist under-belly” of the Conservative Party.

This terrible accusation is so powerful it cows Labour’s opponents into silence.

Surely someone, some time soon, will notice that the population of Britain is set to rise by ten million in 20 years and start to worry. Talk about “broken Britain”.