On Wednesday night my kids asked me why I was looking grumpy, so I had to explain to them that the prime minister had let British children down.
I told them that to tackle the problem we have with obesity, we need someone to lead in a single-minded way, to have clear ideas and direction and to inspire. But also someone to control forces that can have a negative impact — from big businesses advertising on TV, to cartoon characters promoting food, to the layout of a supermarket, with sweets displayed at their eye-level near checkouts.
The pursuit of better child health is the reason I do what I do. I’ve had time to reflect on the Childhood Obesity Strategy, and I’m fully aware that the conversation around child health, obesity and diet-related disease is starting to sound like a broken record. But we need action.
This was the moment we’d been waiting for — the first true test for our prime minister and the opportunity for the British government to say enough is enough. It could have been one of the most important pieces of work of our time, but instead it was prepared and delivered in the most underhand, insensitive, unstrategic way. Everything about it stinks of “we don’t care”. We need to face facts: this problem won’t go away unless we face it head on.
Theresa May did not ask for insight; she did not ask for perspective. And there were plenty of incredible minds ready to contribute. It’s crystal clear to me that the health of our nation is absolutely not on the agenda for Mrs May and her government. You can’t half-fix things. There needs to be a dedicated minister responsible for driving through the missing detail, and the government needs to be held to account. We’re already in crisis.
Of course personal responsibility plays a part, but health stats tell us it’s very easy for people to consistently make the wrong decisions. Government has a duty to provide the support and infrastructure that British families need to do the best for their loved ones. On top of that, the cost of this crisis to the NHS is not sustainable. We have to tackle the root causes, not just the effects.
The sugary drinks tax alone cannot solve the problem. We need a total rebalance. We need an aggressive and decisive ten-year plan across all government departments in order to successfully shift the dial. What we’ve got will only serve to enforce a bigger gap between disadvantaged and affluent families. I’m not going to let this go. Mrs May, I urge you to reconsider. There are many of us that are in this for the long haul. We’re waiting and ready to act. And we’ll still be here to carry things forward in four years’ time.
Jamie Oliver is a chef, campaigner, restaurateur and author.
(Article taken from The Times newspaper)