It’s time to say goodbye to Britain’s so-called Chief Nanny, Dame Sally Davies. In her final report as Chief Medical Officer, Davies shows why she won’t be missed. She proposes a ban on eating or drinking anything other than water on trains and buses. Davies also suggests that nothing fatty or sugary should be available to buy at certain sports stadiums. Goodbye matchday pies or a pint at the rugby.
Dame Sally’s job is to focus on a narrow idea of health. But this remit is blind to a simple reality: most of us want to live a life that we think is worthwhile. Sometimes that means throwing caution and kale to the wind, downing that pint in the pub or sharing sugary popcorn with your kids.
While Davies might scream ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?!’ we should wonder when someone will think of treating adults like adults. You can have all the medical qualifications you like but if you can’t see that having a Pimms at the cricket is a pleasure for fans then you aren’t capable of judging the costs and benefits of a life well lived.
Eating a granola bar on the way to the office might be the only time you get to wolf down some breakfast after dropping off the kids at school; a ready-made can of gin and tonic for the train down to Cornwall is one of the few pleasures available to those travelling on public transport down to the West Country.
For years now, taxpayers have put up with being told what we can eat and drink. We’ve been reassured that each new wheeze by the public health lobby isn’t the start of a slippery slope and that we should be paying the salaries and pensions of the people that push this puritanism upon us.
This elitism has infected civil society for far too long. This patronising attitude amounts to a simple message: you’re too stupid to have a say in your life – and the state knows best. This is wrong. Public policy should be built around the free choices of free citizens in our free country. It should work with the world as it is, and people as they are. It should not be there to try and control or coerce.
But while Davies’ gaze is turned on the Curly Wurly in your hand, those who would seek to dictate what we eat and where have taken their eyes off the ball. For all the obsessing over junk food, why doesn’t Davies instead focus on the return of measles?
In 2018, there were 991 cases of the disease in Britain. We look set to beat that sorry record with 532 cases in the first half of 2019. In Merton in southwest London, just 67 per cent of children are vaccinated with their first and second dose by their fifth birthday — the target is 95 per cent. Across England it stands at 87 per cent. This means we’re not getting the herd immunity needed to eliminate this highly-infectious, potentially life-threatening disease.
So what a legacy Dame Sally Davies leaves. Personal responsibility reduced and choice diminished — and an apparent failure to tackle the return of measles. It’s time for the Health Secretary to make a stand and choose a doctor that talks about wanting to treat the ill and infirm, not test the patience of the rest of us.