Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to the 1980s

When David Cameron packaged himself as the heir to Blair and dragged his party kicking and screaming into the modern world, many assumed it was for political expediency. Then he went into coalition with the Lib Dems and even the most hardened cynic softened.

So what should we make of a leaked letter in which public health minister Anne Milton suggests she'll be abolishing free school milk? Milton could not have evoked the spectre of Margaret Thatcher more directly if she had waved her handbag around her head like a mace and despatched a task-force. The press coverage resonates with the screeching and hissing of a thousand cats coming out of the bag. Former Tory health minister Stephen Dorrell tried to put former nurse Milton in her place this morning on the Today programme by asserting that the proposal had only been discussed at a 'junior level'. Hmmm.

In yesterday's Observer a gentlemen described by the paper's subs as Britain's leading GP (actually Steve Field, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners) lays it on the line to patients: Don't take offence if we lecture you on how to stay alive and healthy. He is arguing for folk to take more responsibility for their health care. That's a fine idea - one men's health campaigners have always championed - for those who can afford it. But in some of Field's hardline populism (let's call obese people fat), there is another chilling echo of the past. Remember when the poor were blamed for being poor? Victorian values they called it.

The MHF often describes its goal as it own redundancy - that a nation of healthy men will render us obsolete. With male life expectancy improving under the last government and the gap with female life expectancy narrowing that day was not impossible to imagine. It is less easy now. Things are changing and some terrible ideas that we thought were dead and buried seem to be back among us.

There are apparently sane men walking around the streets with mullet haircuts. Is it back to the 80s in politics too?

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