It’s time for us to get out of people’s lives

It’s time for us to defining what we are for, rather than simply what we are against. A new Labour leader who is far more electable than the previous, and a Conservative Government that is currently polling really well, puts the Lib Dems in a tricky electoral position.

Part of the problem is that people seemingly know what we are against, such as Brexit, but people don’t really know what we are for. It’s what we are for that we can then create a positive message for the UK, a vision that people can get behind.

I think we should begin with re-finding liberalism and putting that right at the front of our offering to the electorate going forward. It’s time for us to get out of people’s lives and let adults make their own decisions. We are pro-drug reform, a very sensible policy, yet we are inconsistent in other areas.

For example, we are, as a party, supportive of the Sugar Tax, despite strong opposition internally and we have been supportive of restricting food advertising too. Furthermore, we have been pro-minimum unit pricing on alcohol. A policy which puts pubs out of business, damaging the social fabric of many communities, and hurts the millions of responsible drinkers across the country.

This is not liberalism. It is interfering with people’s lives in a way which doesn’t even lead to the intended outcomes, in most cases.

For example, the Sugar Tax was introduced to reduce obesity. The goalposts swiftly changed to targeting a reduction in sugar once it became clear people simply substituted sugary drinks for sugar elsewhere.

Furthermore, the introduction of the tax helped to further oligopolise the drinks industry as Coke and Pepsi’s market share has grown at the expense of those brands which tried to reformulate as a result of the tax.

What we need to do is re-find our liberal roots and start letting people get on with their lives. We shouldn’t be in favour of dictating from Whitehall what people should or should not do.

We need to show that we trust people to make their own decisions, especially after a period of shattering trust with a lot of people. The starting point for this is getting out of their lives, supporting the poorest in society who are often hardest hit by nanny-state interventions and showing that we support the millions of people who eat or drink responsibly.

Once COVID-19 is out of the way, if ever, we need to make sure that we pitch liberalism to the country, because it sure does need it.

* Tom Purvis is a member of the Sheffield Liberal Democrats and is standing in the next local elections

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51 Comments

  • Yeah, ‘let’s get out of other people’s lives’.

    Yeah, let’s rejoice that type 2 diabetes caused by being overweight costs the NHS well over £ 6 billion a year in the UK…. not counting individual misery and heartache….(and not counting the cost of fatty liver disease which can lead to transplants). Let’s also rejoice that Type 2 diabetes affects 7,000 under-25s in England and Wales

    Dr Adrian Heald, of Salford Royal Hospital, and Mike Stedman, of the health consultancy Res Consortium, recently presented research at the annual meeting of the European Association of the Study of Diabetes.They focussed on the cost of hospital care in England, based on admissions and visits to clinics and accident and emergency units. They conclude in the 2017-18 year a total of £5.5bn was spent on diabetes care, almost 10% of the overall hospital budget. This includes treatment of complications arising from the condition, and out-patient appointments. The stark message is “diabetes is the largest contributor to healthcare cost and reduced life expectancy in Europe”.

    I’m sorry Mr Purvis, but this isn’t liberalism. It’s not evidence based. It’s self indulgent libertarianism which gets into the lives of the rest of us because we have to pay for it.

  • Connor Fitzgerald 7th Apr '20 - 2:48pm

    I do agree that there needs to be more focus on what we are for as we start building up to the next election, people understanding our priorities and goals is more important than people knowing our policies overall, as people will have more faith in what we do and in how we would deal with anything else that might come up.
    However, that implies that we as a government would be proactive and be putting things in place, which contradicts the idea of not being involved in people’s lives. Any policy or project that is put in place will dictate to at least someone what to do. I personally believe that our priority should be making opportunities available for people to choose to move things forward rather than rules to force them to, but we are still pushing people in a direction. Anything else would be passive and would overall leave things exactly where they were when we took up office.
    We should be in people’s lives, but in the same way all public services are. Not 24/7, but regularly to make paths forward clear.

  • John Barrett 7th Apr '20 - 2:56pm

    David Raw – Add to that pressure on the NHS from smoking, 80,000 deaths a year, year on year, and many more tens of thousands of patients needing long term treatment for issues directly related to their decision to smoke.

    Everyone making a comment usually says that we all treasure the NHS.

    The truth appears to be that many actually abuse the service provided by the NHS.

  • David Raw
    lets ignore the reality that telling people off doesn’t actually work and obesity has increased despite more interference from the state, and more shouting about it. Outrage doesn’t prove a moral point.

  • Phil Beesley 7th Apr '20 - 3:03pm

    If reading an op-ed piece like this I feel that I don’t understand, I go to the final paragraph and read upwards. On para two, upwards, Tom Purvis says ‘supporting the poorest in society’. I hope Tom can explain further.

    I also read the piece backwards because I don’t believe that alcohol and sugar taxes work in the ways that their proponents proclaim. Just observations about science and human behaviour.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Apr '20 - 4:12pm

    I am in favour (as I think our party is) of the Liberal view that people should have more control over their lives through their communities and decisions made in a democratic way. But this is not the right-wing economistic view of choice substantially or even merely through markets which is neither Liberal nor democratic. I don’t know Tim Purvis but if this is really his view I wonder if he and I belong in the same party!

  • Tony Greaves 7th Apr '20 - 4:14pm

    I wonder if the poorest in society are really hit hardest by “nanny-state interventions” of things like benefits and pensions…

  • As a Social Liberal I want the government to get involved in people’s lives – ending poverty, ensuring everyone who wants a home of their own has one, ensuring that everyone who wants a job has one, ensuring that everyone receives the health care they need quickly, and ensuring everyone has free education and training so they can fulfil their full potential.

    Tom Purvis,

    Your article seems to be a call for government to do less, but you say we should say what we are for. Are you for what I am for (as set out above)? It seems that you still want us to state we are against – the sugar tax, restricting food advertising, and unit pricing of alcohol. I don’t think we could win an election by doing only that. You say correctly behavioural taxes affect the poorest the most. However, I believe that high taxes on tobacco have resulted in a reduction of the number of smokers. I know cost was a big factor in my giving up smoking. When we consider behavioural taxes we need to consider the evidence and the effect on the poorest in society but in the end we as liberals should act to minimise harm to the most people.

  • John Marriott 7th Apr '20 - 4:48pm

    @Tom Purvis
    “Letting people get on with their lives”. You’re in the wrong party, Mr Purvis. Let’s been a Tory mantra for as long as I can remember. So, all those people currently having parties and BBQs are just getting on with their lives, just like all those rich people currently profiting from the present crisis. Remember the words of John Donne (“no man is an island”).

    My credo, for what it’s worth, and one which attracted me to the Liberal Party in the 1970s, was that I was for the freedom of the individual, provided that they achieved their goals by not exploiting their fellow man. Not every teacher will become a Headteacher, not every police officer will become a Chief Constable, not every MP will become Prime Minister…. As Shakespeare said in “Twelfth Night”; “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. I also didn’t accept that life had to be the way it was. As the late Robert F Kennedy said; “I dream of things that never were and ask why not”.

    Liberty is a wonderful thing; but that really doesn’t give anyone free licence to do exactly what they want, without accepting the possible consequences. We need rules and, while some may be considered excessive, there are always some that need to be obeyed for the common good – like staying at home and avoiding contact at the moment.

  • @ john Barrett Indeed, John, and if one observes exhalations from vapour smoking devices it’s obvious how far infections can spread.

    @ Glenn Are you saying we do nothing ? Evidence with alcohol minimum pricing and tobacco tax is it works, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) website has evidence that the sugar tax works..

    The ‘Nanny State’ has a Faragist/Trumpian ring to it. Gladstone’s dead and Benthamite Gradgrindian attitudes were discarded well over 100 years ago in most parts of the Liberal Party……

  • Paul Barker 7th Apr '20 - 5:44pm

    Look in any supermarket & compare prices. Nine times out of ten the cheapest products contain the most Sugar, Salt & Fat. For the very poor that is not a Free choice.
    The point of Taxes on Sugar & other additives is to level the playing field so that Poor people have the same ability to choose as people like most Libdems.
    There are alternative approaches, we could just ban adding Sugar & Salt altogether but I suspect Tom Purvis would like that idea even less.
    This Article is a perfect demonstration of the difference between Liberalism & Libertarianism.

  • @John Marriott. I don’t think Tom is in the wrong party. rather I think of his ideas as grit in the oyster. Slightly irritating, but likely to bring forth greater clarity in the thinking of others.

  • David Raw
    Really, Trump and Farage jibes! tired an meaningless. It ‘s like saying, Oh you want the state do tell people what to do, so you’re exactly like like Erdogon or Radev. They’re your heroes they are.
    No I just don’t think too much intrusion on people lives by the state is a good thing and I’m a little uncomfortable with seeing what other people do as my business. If I was going pull a moral argument on you, I’d point out that I’m vegan, and I think the industrial murder and torture living creatures is a bigger scandal than eating too much sugar or drinking too much gin.

  • James Baillie 7th Apr '20 - 6:47pm

    I have much sympathy with those who think the “nanny state” rhetoric here is grating – all too often the term has been used to denigrate sensible workplace protections and similar. However, on the substance of the piece I do think it’s possible to oppose the sugar tax specifically on solidly liberal, not libertarian, grounds. It’s a tax that disproportionately hits worse off people and people who need additional dietary sugar, both groups we ought to be caring about not pricing out of essentials – it’s not a comparable situation to tobacco or alcohol in that sugar is in many foodstuffs and is a dietary requirement. Levelling the playing field, as Paul Barker puts it above, in a way that just makes all the food unaffordable could hurt as much as help nutrition intake among the worst off. I’m about as far as one can get from being reticent about taxing things, but a sales tax on something contained in a huge range of essential goods is very far from what we’d normally think of as ideal liberal taxation policy, hitting as it does those with the narrowest shoulders the hardest.

  • I dislike the idea of a sugar tax because it does tend to hit the poorest harder, however, I would like to see legislation that limits the amount of sugar and salt that can be added in all products.
    It would then be up to the personal choice of the consumer if they wished to add more sugar/salt to the final product.

    As others have pointed out, it tends to be the cheaper products that are absolutely loaded with extra sugars and salts and increasing the cost of these is unfair on the most disadvantaged.

    Obesity and Diabetes is a problem in this country at a huge cost to the NHS, there have been endless attempts to educate the public on healthier eating to no avail, unfortunately far too many have lost the passion for home cooking and family meals and instead rely on quick convenience ready meals, therefore to tackle the crisis we need to regulate the supplier rather than the consumer in my opinion

  • James Bliss 7th Apr '20 - 8:39pm

    I totally agree with Tom and his article. As a party we all too often fall into supporting totally illiberal policies, like the sugar levy and minimum unit pricing, because too many members fall into the trap of wanting a technocracy where PHE tells people what they need to do with their lives, and the government enforces that advice with taxes and legislation. While listening to experts and using bodies like PHE as a tool to better inform the public, it needs to be just that. Informing and educating the public on what they should do, not using the strong arm of the state to enforce a lifestyle onto the public at large wether they like it or not.

    It is a paternalistic and illiberal worldview whereby the middle class’ know better than those silly people who smoke and drink sugary drinks and eat fast food and buy cheap booze from supermarkets.

    Id also say, a lot of the comments here are totally deflecting to the point at hand, and trying to suggest that saying that the state shouldn’t force people to change their own lifestyles means you will automatically oppose using the state to deal with issues like poverty and income inequality. You can use the state in a positive way to deal with those issues, without falling into use it to stop being doing what they want with their own lives.

    Going on about how much it costs the NHS or whatever is exactly the issue. You want to use the fact we have a publicly funded healthcare system as leverage to invade the lives and choices of the general public. They are taxpayers too, and if they want to drink sugary drinks, and smoke and drink, despite the public health awareness and education, then that is their right, and you shouldn’t seek to financially punish them or stop them from doing what they want with their lives .

    I very much support having say a UBI, but my main worry is it would then be used by paternalists to further justify restrictions on what people can spend their money on, in the name of saving public money from being “wasted” in ways illiberals see it.

  • @ James Bliss “You want to use the fact we have a publicly funded healthcare system as leverage to invade the lives and choices of the general public.”

    Well, James, best of luck when you drive in a bus lane during peak hours and decide that the £ 60 fine is an invasion of your life and your choice to drive in it.

  • The sugar tax has been disasterous. Rather than simply reducing sugar companies have loaded up their products with sweeteners which are not healthy, but also the net effect is to get children hooked on even sweeter products. It is really hard to avoid the sweeteners now.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Apr '20 - 10:47pm

    We should do what the author does like and Lord Greaves does not, on choice, have far more, but do the opposite in effect, with this policy, keep the taxes on harmful produce, but the choice is ours.

    We are Liberal, and democratic, if we have higher tax on sugar, smoking, petrol, buy as you like, poor or rich, do not have to have all these as much.

    tHIS CRISIS, THOUGH REQUIRES, A MEAT TAX, EVERY VIRUS THESE MANY, IN FACT, ARE CAUSED BY THE RELATIONSHIP OR HARM, CAUSED BY HUMANS, IN TRADE OF ANIMALS AS MEAT.

  • My opinion is that we need to think about how to remove poverty first. We also need to think about the fact is that the planet cannot support everyone on the planet having the sort of lives that those of us in the West who are not poor have.
    We know at least the start of answering how to stop the degradation of our environment that is happening. If no-one were poor, according to what we see throughout the world, population growth would stop, we would have a chance of creating a more healthy society.
    I sympathise with the views of Tom Purvis, but think that the only rational way of proceeding is to deal with the underlying problems in creating a healthy society.

  • Michael Sammon 8th Apr '20 - 1:57am

    Good article Tom and like any solid argument, it has been straw manned to death in the comments. I can possibly see a case for the sugar tax but I’m sceptical of it. However I am yet to be the slightest convinced of any reason why we might wish to raise the cost of someone having a drink. Hope I am wrong but it really does stink of some middle class “look at the stupid poor” attitude that James Bliss mentioned.

  • James Bliss 8th Apr '20 - 2:04am

    @David Raw “Well, James, best of luck when you drive in a bus lane during peak hours and decide that the £ 60 fine is an invasion of your life and your choice to drive in it”

    Are you capable of debating or making a point without creating a massive strawman? There is obviously a fundamental difference between bus lane fines, driving and the highway code and using the NHS as a weapon to control the lives and diets of individuals. People have a right to eat what they like and do what they want with their bodies without the nanny state and PHE telling them they are wrong, financially disadvantaging them for making that choice, and forcing companies into stop making the products they want (which the sugar levy effectively does)

  • David, diabetes was a bad one to start off with as an example. Ultimately, all the epidemiology suggests that “the state” has caused the increase in obesity and in metabolic syndrome diseases like diabetes as a result. Since more or less adopting the execrable and badly researched “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” wholesale in the late seventies and establishing a hectoring “high carb low fat” recommended diet.

    So for those who want the state out of people’s lives, the rise of diabetes is an example for why the state can do spectacularly badly when it monopolises one size fits all advice and regulation like this. Millions have been made to suffer all sorts of conditions as a result.

  • A more constructive argument might have been how to spend the much lowered govn revenue post virus more fairly and in a way that minimizes govn interference in people’s lives, a chance for radical reforms in welfare and taxation rather than more of the same. With the ratio of debt to (much reduced) GDP much higher it will probably be the end of dodgy financing and circular QE (one govn arm loaning money to another out of thin air). This is the next big problem and you can run with it by saying much less govn is the only answer.

    Of course if you have a proper stock market crash (loss of eighty percent of peak value), the govn could print off a trillion quid to buy shares, wait five to ten years and then sell it off at three or four time the stake, thus paying off the national debt!. Juicy enough to bring Gordon Brown out of retirement, judging by his adeptness at selling gold, he would buy shares and then sell them at a massive loss…

  • Alex Macfie 8th Apr '20 - 7:59am

    Lib Dems tend to do better when Labour have a more electable leader, because soft Tories are not so easily frit by fear of a hard Left Labour government. Look at our performance during the Blair years. I lost count of the number of times I got people on the doorstep saying they were voting Tory instead of us (in a Lib Dem-Tory marginal) because they didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10.
    And the Tory government is polling well only because of rallying to the flag in a time of crisis. This will disappear once politics as usual returns. We should perhaps be grateful that there aren’t going to be any elections at all for the rest of this year, and most likely not until May next.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '20 - 8:03am

    how on earth does Lord greaves go from disagreeing with someone about the sugar tax to saying they do not belong in the Lib Dems

  • Galen Milne 8th Apr '20 - 8:40am

    We don’t really know what major policies the Labour Party under KS will advocate. He talks about reconciliation and during the current crisis facing the planet that is relatively cheap talk as we generally are all trying to pull together in communities across the UK. I’m sure we have plenty policies to chew over but a fundamental one needs to be electoral reform, as without that we are in still water.

  • Obesity and Type ” diabetes, which currently cost the taxpayer huge amounts of money, are completely self-inflicted.

    Rather than complain that they are costing the taxpayer money, and advocating a tax, the surest way to focus people’s minds is to exclude their treatment from the services provided by the NHS. Then people would be both free to choose the lifestyle they want, and have the responsibility of paying for the consequences. That is the most Liberal approach.

  • Steve Trevethan 8th Apr '20 - 8:59am

    Might we consider working on education policies which foreground health, welfare and independence of attitude and thought, personally and socially?

  • Dilettante Eye 8th Apr '20 - 9:21am

    Tony Greaves

    “I wonder if the poorest in society are really hit hardest by “nanny-state interventions” of things like benefits and pensions… “

    Nice slap in the face of the poor there, … Lord Greaves?

    Why not go and pick up your £310 taxpayer freebie, and go sit on your unelected derriere.

  • It doesn’t have to be a choice between constant meddling and do-nothing laissez-faire.

    The state can do things to help improve the health of the nation without interfering extensively in the lives of individuals.

    It can build cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and improve public transport systems to encourage people to exercise whilst also improving air quality.

    It can ensure that public parks, recreation spaces and sports clubs are properly funded.

    It can help promote healthy eating through education and targeted subsidies.

    I don’t know exactly how effective these things would be, and if sin taxes help to pay for them then I’m not totally opposed, but it’s about taking a positive, liberal approach to the problem, not choosing between an authoritarian one or ignoring it.

  • @David Raw “Well, James, best of luck when you drive in a bus lane during peak hours and decide that the £ 60 fine is an invasion of your life and your choice to drive in it”

    That’s an excellent example – road pricing to ration a scarce resource. I knew we’d make an economic Liberal of you one day.

  • Rob Parsons 8th Apr '20 - 11:15am

    James Bliss: “People have a right to eat what they like and do what they want with their bodies without the nanny state and PHE telling them they are wrong, financially disadvantaging them for making that choice, and forcing companies into stop making the products they want (which the sugar levy effectively does)”

    People also have a right not to have their taxes spent providing expensive long term medical care for those who exercised their right to treat their bodies poorly.

    That is the problem here. Small state liberals always assume that liberalism is a one way street. We live in a society where people are all connected. If you exercising your liberty infringes on me exercising my liberty, there must be a compromise. That is the fundamental of liberal democracy which small state liberals persistently forget.

    (By the way I think the sugar tax is fundamentally wrong, not because it is illiberal, but because it does not work.)

  • Governments have a responsibility for the health of citizens but in a free society this has to be balanced against personal freedom. I don’t agree with the sugar tax, I would rather see better diet education.

    Sugar poses a huge threat. We have a craving for sugar because it tastes good. This biological strategy ensured that when food was scarce our ancestors gave priority to high energy choices. Today, high carbohydrate junk food supplies the taste, the energy and the bulk to satisfy hunger but it leads to obesity, diabetes and other diseases. The government is right to tackle this problem.

    The writer says that we should apply liberalism and leave people to get on with it. You can argue that about the Corona virus too. This is placing ideology before common sense.

  • I don’t think Tom’s assertion that proposals for minimum unit pricing on alcohol would put pubs out of business is correct. I believe the intention of that policy is to prevent very low priced alcoholic drinks being sold in supermarkets etc. and would be unlikely to affect the higher priced liquids served in pubs. Unfortunately Tim Martin would like that. He has habitually complained that pubs are overtaxed compared to supermarkets neglecting the consideration that pubs able to trade for long hours on Sundays whilst large shops are limited to 6 hrs and have to close by 6pm.

  • Do I have a right to withdraw the money I pay into the NHS from going to the care of judgemental men who think that going on about who they would like to withdraw support from makes them look “realistic” or hard. Can I also withdraw it from anyone who calls t misuses the term “economic liberal” to push views that endanger the NHS more than anyone they are casting judgement on. The reality is the NHS has not been undermined by various illness, but by the cuts, attacks and free-market dogma inflicted on it by the economic right.

  • Tom makes an excellent point. Firstly the sugar tax is quite patronising, my single mum, zero hours contract working cousin can make up her own mind whether she wants to buy a bottle of full fat coke for her kids. She is bombarded with information on diet through labelling, the media and TV, she herself like me will have grown up eating an inch of sugar on her Weetabix, and 4 spoons in her tea; but her kids wouldn’t touch it. Food labelling, and education are sufficient to give people the information to make their own choice. Comparisons to smoking are incredibly misleading, the link between smoking and health is irrefutable; science is still assessing the causes of increased obesity.

    More importantly for us as the 3rd party; I believe that we will see both Labour and Conservatives move to even more dirigiste policies post-COVID-19. Which will resonate with many in the public. Tom’s important point is that we should offer an alternative more liberal voice.

  • @Glenn “The reality is the NHS has not been undermined by various illness, but by the cuts, attacks and free-market dogma inflicted on it by the economic right.”

    How strange, then, that there are many countries which have far better outcomes than the UK, that have “free-market dogma” insurance-based systems, and/or spend less per capita, than the UK.

  • Peter Hirst 8th Apr '20 - 4:35pm

    I generally agree. However there are many things in our lives where society expects government to look after them. Examples include smoking, wearing seat belts, a decent social safety net. When society is clearly failing such as in obesity government should step in. There are plenty of examples however where we can show our freedom and taking responsibility credentials such as drug reform, pensions and insurance.

  • TCO
    How strange you pretend to care about the NHS when you are so plainly against the principles it was set up on. Also, I just do not like your B.S and I’m not going to get into a back and forth with someone I would walk away from if we were talking in person.

  • @Glenn “How strange you pretend to care about the NHS when you are so plainly against the principles it was set up on.”

    The NHS was founded to provide healthcare free at the point of use.

    That principle still holds without needing to be delivered by a nationalised centralised system funded from government taxation. Germany manages it without so doing.

    It also holds – and you can look this up – that Beveridge required the wrap-around system to provide a minimum safety net that didn’t stifle the incentive for self-betterment. Charging responsible taxpayers to pick up the pieces of other people’s poor lifestyle choices doesn’t seem to fall into the remit of a system designed to help those who suffer misfortune through no fault of their own. Rather it requires rationing, which is worse when huge proportions of the health budget go on the effects of dealing with preventable conditions.

    I had cause to be treated for emergency care recently. I had excellent care – that is what the health service is, after all, for, and good at. What shocked me was the cavalier attitude displayed by many of my fellow patients who abused the staff, were entitled, and had no inkling of the wonderful privelege of being able to be treated by world class physicians at other people’s expense. All they did was whinge and complain. I take my hat off to the staff that had to deal with them.

    “Also, I just do not like your B.S and I’m not going to get into a back and forth with someone I would walk away from if we were talking in person.”

    That is your privelege, but it says more about you than me.

  • @Glen. Regarding your point about the NHS being undermined by “free market dogma”, I have no idea if you can remember back to the 1970’s (or beyond) but my recollection is that for as long as anyone can remember there have been hospital waiting lists, or annual winter crisis, or reports of rationing or shortages. That has been the case when Labour was in power as much as when the Tories governed, which suggests that the problems of capacity are deep seated and structural.
    Can we all agree that when this pandemic is all over, we have to look for ways of creating an NHS worthy of those who work in it and that the answer may not lie in just throwing more tax payer money in their direction (if only becasue the taxpayer won’t have that much money to throw !).

  • Gordon Lishman 8th Apr '20 - 6:00pm

    What a lot of interesting arguments people have jumped into with such certainty!

    There are broadly accepted global definitions of liberalism which are shared by all liberal parties. They are about freedom, democracy, internationalism and human rights. They are not about the details of sugar tax.

    It is unusual to see the use of market mechanisms rather than regulation characterised as the work of a “nanny state”. Rather to the contrary as right-wing governments and parties have embraced “nudging” rather than instruction.

    I am disappointed by the assumption, shared by people on all sides of this argument, that individual behaviours such as smoking, obesity and bad diet have a net cost to health services. In fact, because people die younger because of those factors, the overall net cost to health services is less over a lifetime. The cost argument is a red herring supported by doctors who see individual cases rather than populations and those who, for a variety of reasons, would rather not see the underlying societal causes.

    It’s true that telling people to behave in a more healthy way has the disadvantage of not working. It’s also “blaming the victim” and leads to unpleasant class stereo-typing.
    A more rational response to reduced life expectancy and higher morbidity rates in later life is to identify the causes of those phenomena.

    So, in a popular current phrase, what does the science tell us? It tells us unequivocally that reduced life chances, inequalities, powerlessness, poverty, unemployment, smoking, pollution and bad housing are the factors which cause differential mortality and morbidity in later life, including as a result of individual behaviours which are stimulated by those factors.

    I’m in favour of taxing some of the things which contribute to these problems for the same reason that I’m in favour of mandatory seat belts. That may mean that they kill more well-off people instead of poor people, although I doubt it.

    Most importantly, I am strongly in favour of action across the board by all the different governments to address the underlying causes of health inequities.

  • This purpose of the above post was to propose that government should not intervene in health measures such as diet, alcohol consumption and drugs because to do so is illiberal and therefore people should be left to make their own decisions.

    The writer does not suggest that any level of intervention is justified. This is all good stuff for political activists with no chance or expectation of ever being in government but it is not a credible position for anyone charged with responsibility for the health of our nation. The party needs to decide whether it is a liberalism club or a party intent on serious political ambition.

  • There is mountains of evidence linking the consumption of processed and red meat to various forms of cancer. There is also abundant evidence of pollution causing asthma. Does this mean we should withdraw medical treatment from people who eat bacon or drive a car. I don’t think so. As a vegan environmentally aware person, I could easily point to poor personal choices and cast my moral judgement on those choices, but this would make me a bit of a tool rather than a “realist” trying to save the NHS from the ill effects of those “poor choices” and lack of self control.

  • “We have been supportive of restricting food advertising too. Furthermore, we have been pro-minimum unit pricing on alcohol. A policy which puts pubs out of business, damaging the social fabric of many communities, and hurts the millions of responsible drinkers across the country.” – even without a sugar tax, I cannot imagine that you oppose preventing greedy corporates from bombarding low-information people with junk food advertisements. Banning ads will not materially affect average Joe anyway, people who need additional sugar in their diet for health reason like you said do not need those ads to make their decisions, but low-information poors will buy into those ads. For minimum unit pricing on alcohol and alcohol taxation, as a pro-Temperance liberal, I support it. It should be treated like cigarettes.

  • John Littler 11th Apr '20 - 7:53pm

    In normal times, getting out of people’s lives might have more appeal, but the Green economy won’t arrive without massive intervention.
    The huge dislocation of automating manual labour and brain power via advanced computing, combined with commerce going online, makes what is coming unique. Leaving this to the market will either end humanity or create a revolution as people’s incomes largely vanish.
    The times call for Social Liberals to do their stuff and with a lot of borrowed money

  • Peter Farrell-Vinay 13th Apr '20 - 2:20pm

    Tom Purvis is an embarrassment: “It’s time for us to defining what we are for”.

    Hey look, it’s the LibDems! Can’t even write a simple grammatical sentence.

    Do we want them to run the country? Of course! With attention to detail like this they make even Chris Grayling look good.

  • marcstevens 17th Apr '20 - 2:08pm

    No thanks, I’d like more involvement from the state, a force for good in so many ways and areas of people’s lives, where it protects vulnerable groups, those of us on lower incomes etc. The nanny state is always bandied about by the right wing libertarians to attack public services the public sector which need to be in robust shape now more than never as we continue to deal with the Corona virus situation. Isn’t it nanny who so often looked after us the best as in our time of need. So it’s big yes to the sugar tax, yes to the ban on smoking inside buildings (thanks to that the risk of my crohns disease flaring up is at an all time low) and a big no to orange booker liberalism and its selfish individualism of I do what I want, where I want, where I want and couldn’t care less about anyone else/sod all the rest.

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