Forget Brexit, what’s going to do for the Tories at the next election is the sugar tax. Nowhere is their cloying nannying more visible than at the office canteen, where the kind of measures we hoped were consigned to the dustbin of New Labour, are leaving workers cursing the Conservatives with every swig of their sugar free Coke.
Looking across my tray at the shelves where the gaudy cans of Sprite and Fanta used to sit, all I see is coconut water, myriad takes on fizzy elderflower, rows and rows of white Cawston Press cans with ‘absolutely no artificial nasties added’. It’s like living under a tyranny which only communicates in Comic Sans.
The snack tray too remains a sorry sight. Thanks to the sugar tax my daily Snickers has been reduced to a not-so-fun size while it jostles for position with protein balls, granola bars and bloody popcorn. Sweet potato chips abound, to be eaten with recyclable plastic forks and washed down with paper cups and straws which tend to disintegrate into a soggy mass in a matter of moments.
We were all moved by the plight of that baby pilot whale on The Blue Planet but it might be time for Michael Gove to admit the paper straw isn’t working.
It is this, far more than Brexit, which has been lost to the average voter in a sea of White Papers, which should be a cause of worry for the Conservatives. A hungry worker is an unhappy worker. As ever The Simpsons nails it when Homer boosts productivity at his power plant by increasing the condiments ration. ‘Let the fools have their tartar sauce,’ canny boss Mr Burns observes.
There is no such empathy for the ordinary worker from the Cameroons.
George Osborne, regards the sugar tax as one of his great successes in office: ‘Proud to have introduced this major piece of progressive public health policy,’ he tweeted as the ordinary public tried to digest the new Irn-Bru recipe. Osborne doesn’t believe he went far enough. He now regrets not taxing milkshakes as well.
Other former Downing Street bods are also using their new jobs in journalism to preach the virtues of reducing our food choices. Former Cameron speechwriter Clare Foges wrote in the Times, ‘We need the PM to become Nanny Theresa’ as “strategies to fight Britain’s flab are failing woefully.’
As if to pursue the revolutionary analogy further, another wonk who actually came up with the idea, former journalist Camilla Cavendish, has been elevated to Baroness Cavendish of Little Venice for her efforts. ‘This tax was never about raising money – it was about making people healthier.’ Bring on the tumbrils I say.
The sadness is that Theresa May was supposed to be a bulwark against this type of patrician behaviour. On arrival at Number 10 one of her first measures was to scrap Cameron’s planned sugar tax. Her aides briefed that she had come to the rescue of Tony the Tiger. But this ratchet only works one way and within six months she changed her tune. The sugar tax became law under Theresa’s watch.
It has since been reported that the Prime Minister is suitably heartened by the lack of public outcry that she may press on with the increasingly barmy measures proposed by the obesity lobby. She should be careful. There is a silent majority sitting in offices seething into their Tooth Kind Ribena.