The Tories have lost the plot

Their unhealthy embrace of nanny-state gimmicks reveals an administration that has lost its way.

Paddy Hannam

Topics Politics UK

With a global pandemic raging, most Brits stuck at home and the biggest recession on record casting a dark shadow over the future, the UK government has decided now is the time to introduce nanny-state controls on what we eat.

When the new laws come into effect, junk-food ads will not be permitted on TV before the 9pm watershed. Special offers for unhealthy food in shops will be barred, as will eye-grabbing displays of snacks and sweets. All food chains with more than 250 employees will be obliged to print calorie counts on their menus.

And these are just the confirmed policies. The government will also consult on banning online junk food advertising and on whether to force pubs to put calorie figures on beer pumps. A traffic-light system may be introduced on food labelling to warn customers of the unhealthy nature of their potential purchases.

The case against these measures is obvious: they are a paternalistic infringement on freedom and choice – brought about by a prime minsiter who pledged to resist the ‘continuing creep of the nanny state’.

The roll-out of this obesity strategy confirms that this is a government in disarray and with no direction. It arrives just a week before the launch of another flagship policy: the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. While one policy tries to discourage people from over-eating, another does the reverse by giving people 50 per cent off restaurant meals. Eat Out to Help Out covers fast food restaurants: Britain will soon have one of the cheapest Big Macs in the world – subsidised by the same government trying to battle obesity. Go figure.

The proposals bring back memories of previous governments’ desperate attempts to find a purpose. George Osborne’s pasty and granny taxes are one such example, reflective of an administration at a low ebb.

Boris has only been prime minister for a year. He has an enormous working majority, having utterly crushed Labour at the ballot box. He was given a huge mandate for an ambitious platform to take us out of the EU and to transform Britain’s economy. His government even remains ahead in the polls. And yet the latest flurry of announcements, which obsess over the minutiae of our diets and habits – as well as being largely borrowed from his wildly unpopular predecessor – suggests that the Boris administration is already growing tired and out of touch.

Instead of having a clear vision for taking the country forward in a crisis, the government’s measures are confused and contradictory. Take the move to make face masks obligatory in shops. The government took this decision around three months after the peak of Covid-19 infections. Indeed, it waited until the virus was virtually dead in the UK – for the past several weeks, the number of excess deaths has actually been lower than the five-year average, despite the pandemic. In any case, the major supermarkets have said they will not enforce the rule, embarrassing the government, showing up its empty threats and denting its authority. This was surely predictable.

In days past, it was Labour that pushed hardest for moralistic nanny-state interventions. The new Tory proposals remind us of the New Labour years and their obsession with the politics of behaviour. Boris is now singing from the same paternalistic, anti-freedom hymn-sheet. Rather than doing anything radical or forward-thinking, his government has resorted to moralistic virtue-signalling.

The Tories have been badly bruised by their much-criticised handling of the pandemic and are flailing about in search of a new purpose, without any success. Unless things turn around, this administration will be defined by its inconsistent, overreaching policies that threaten to do more harm than good.

Paddy Hannam is a spiked intern.

Picture by: Getty.

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Travis Henderson

5th August 2020 at 8:40 am

Just another example of the disasters caused by giving power to the power-hungry.

Stef Steer

29th July 2020 at 9:48 pm

You are right this seems like a waste of time. Having said that I don’t really have an issue with labelling, as long as its accurate it could be useful.

On the wider point, they really need new thinking economically, Sunak seems to have asked the treasury wonks to go mad with whatever crappy wheeze they can think of and eventually then threatened us all with tax rises as is standard.

Instead of that Boris needs to ask what creates the most jobs? (the answer is small business) and set about making life very easy for small businesses and for people to start small businesses. In fact there needs to be a small business renaissance with red tape cut (diversity, data and health and safety shake up) if we are to have any kind of future.

He also needs to ask what motivates people and that is a fair, honest, not corrupt system where hard work and innovation are rewarded. We are nowhere near that.

James Knight

29th July 2020 at 6:22 pm

Banning junk food adds raises the question of when they will ban junk science policies.

Travis Henderson

5th August 2020 at 8:07 am

Science is always junk as long as it is funded by people or organisations with an agenda linked to the research they are funding. Because an honest researcher who arrives with undesired resukts is defunded and will soon be working in fast food.


29th July 2020 at 2:43 pm

My comment is awaiting censorship.


29th July 2020 at 2:43 pm

The Tories were elected, with Spiked’s approval, to take back control of the borders and end freedom of movement between countries.
Covid19 has given the opportunity to do more than you bargained for. The final year of EEA free movement under the transition agreement has been cancelled. Passport and visa applications are no longer being processed, so immigration and emigration is completely halted. We no longer have a “right” even to step outside our own homes, only permissions and privileges that can be withdrawn at any time if anyone else in the same town misbehaves.
If you can make Brexit happen, can’t you stop it going too far?

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 3:33 pm

Straw man argument trying to link Covid 19 to Brexit.


29th July 2020 at 5:12 pm

Answer the question. Spiked put this lot in and must be made accountable for the results.

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 10:13 pm

I don’t answer hypothetical strawman questions. There is no point.

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2020 at 6:17 pm

The electorate put “this lot in”. As has been shown by Donald Trump and the Brexit vote, no media onslaught is newspaper is capable of putting a government in or removing it.
You can rail at whoever you like, but it is just a smokescreen for your anger at being unable to tell people what to vote, and even worse, for the fact that they have the right to do so. In secret.

Ian Murray

29th July 2020 at 12:25 pm

I’d say it is you revolutionary marxists turned into rightwing ‘libertarian’s who have lost the plot. if you ever had one to start with.

etidretni noinipo

29th July 2020 at 12:41 pm

Revolutionary marxist turning into libertarians sounds like a dictionary definition of people who have finally very much found the plot if you ask me.

James Clark

29th July 2020 at 1:26 pm

Revolutionary Marxists might not be above pretending to be something else if it suits their political ends. This site seems to be about fomenting unrest, that’s something the comrades have a liking for.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 1:06 pm

You tell ‘em! Your reasoning and evidence are overwhelmingly persuasive

etidretni noinipo

29th July 2020 at 1:14 pm

Glad to be of service!

Treacle Tart

29th July 2020 at 11:45 am

They are also continuing to spray money about as if there were no tomorrow. Yesterday’s wheeze was free repairs for bicycles. Will this prompt even one person to take up cycling? And what business is it of the government’s whether the public ride bicycles anyway?

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 11:18 am

The tories never had a plot to lose in reality. The last GE was fought on Brexit, Boris promised to deliver.. time will tell but I’m not hopeful. Just what else did they fight on.. I really can’t remember which is probably why I didn’t vote for them.
This food labelling nonsense comes at the same time that the government is offering a hundred pounds of our tax money back to us to have our bicycles fixed up. We are in debt to the tune of billions of pounds, is food labelling and watershedding really a priority ?
‘Flailing’ is a very apt word.
I seem to remember being told eggs were bad for you cheese was bad for you red wine was bad for you coffee was bad for you.. then it wasn’t .. then maybe it was
again. So why not just bloody well leave us alone to live as we feel is right everything in moderation is a good maxim. if we get it wrong we have our NHS to save us.. for a change!

Gerry Mander

29th July 2020 at 6:34 pm

Jerry, grow up or stop posting here. Your comments are childish.

harry briggs

29th July 2020 at 11:01 am

Just 2 minor policies the author doesn’t agree with seem to prove the Government has “lost it’s way”, that’s nonsense, the wearing of masks in shops is probably more to do with getting those “scared” people out of their homes and back into spending money in the shops, rather than to control the spread of the virus, and Boris Johnson was obviously influenced by his stay in hospital and the medical staff he came into contact with regards obesity and it’s effect on the outcomes of those with the virus, however misguided the policy, it is not a “sign” of anything as drastic as the author claims, it would take some extreme changes in society to deal with the obesity issue and this is just a minor change.

Al Wilson

29th July 2020 at 10:50 am

Seem to remember Living Marxism running a similar story under John Majors administration. Basically we the government are incompetent so lets blame the individual for being fat and eating the wrong food

James Knight

29th July 2020 at 6:31 pm

The traditional left argument was to correlate health outcomes with living standards or, for example, poor housing.

What has happened is they moved away from advocating increasing living standards as the best solution. Instead they focus more on controlling and restricting individual choices of “the poor” who need to be saved from themselves.

etidretni noinipo

29th July 2020 at 10:45 am

Boris is basically frittering away the goodwill that was bestowed on him by the electorate last December with this kind of politics. Assuming that there is no incredible Brexit twist just round the corner (God forbid), at least he’ll execute on that part of his mandate, but does he seriously imagine that this nanny-statism is going to help him to retain all those newly won seats next time round? Having won an election so handily, surely he knows his electorate better than this. Baffling and disappointing in equal measures.

Jonathan Marshall

29th July 2020 at 5:59 pm

Exactly. We voted for the Cavaliers and ended up with a bunch of Roundhead puritans.

Ian Murray

29th July 2020 at 10:42 am

So these former revolutionary Marxists intent on overthrowing capitalism not all that long ago are now fuming over how sweet packets are labelled?

I suppose the pay is better.

James Clark

29th July 2020 at 11:07 am

Perhaps Koch Industries told them to complain.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 1:10 pm

What’s your take on BLM, whose founders admit to being ‘trained Marxist insurrectionists’ wanting to overthrow capitalism and Trump? Do violent BLM Marxists offend you as much as Spiked authors and their nasty words?

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 2:35 pm

BLM leaders who confess they are trained Marxist insurrectionists and who aim to ‘overthrow capitalism’ don’t offend you like the nasty words of Spiked writers, right? If not, please link to your posts condemning BLM violence.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 2:36 pm

BLM leaders who confess they are trained Marxist insurrectionists and who aim to ‘overthrow capitalism’ don’t offend you like the nasty words of Sp-ked writers, right? If not, please link to your posts condemning BLM violence.

Michael Morgan

29th July 2020 at 10:25 am

The Tories are coming across as a party that has lost touch with the general public, and that is a very dangerous thing for a government to do. Who do they think is going to grab the £50 bicycle voucher? The people that already cycle. Do they really think the majority of overweight people are going to get on a bike? I know some of these people and they take the lift rather than walk up a short flight of stairs. Not much use restricting ads to after the watershed when children pass by cheap chicken and fast food places every day and parents buy their family evening meal from them. Admittedly it is quite hard to know how to approach the problem, but the government giving freebees to mainly the fit middle class is no answer and they should stop wasting public money.

Gerry Mander

29th July 2020 at 9:26 am

I would LIKE to know the calorific content of the food on offer at restaurants. As one who is always watching his weight, such knowledge is invaluable to me.
Please don’t fall into the trap of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Gerry Mander

29th July 2020 at 9:30 am

That apart, parliament is full of mad idiots.
The greatest anagram I know is :- Houses of Parliament = Shameful operations.

etidretni noinipo

29th July 2020 at 10:36 am

That’s not bad at all!

My favourite however is mother in law = woman Hitler. An anagram for the ages!

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 11:03 am

If you don’t know what are fattening foods and high calorie foods are, then I can only assume you are aged about ten !
Can you not do your own research?
Do you need ‘nanny’?

Gerry Mander

29th July 2020 at 6:31 pm

Jerry, I’m a doctor but you ought to know that particularly in restaurants, there are many hidden calories, with subtly obscured added sugar. You are rather naive and your lecture is misplaced and patronising. You need to grow up and adopt a more adult approach.

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 10:15 pm

Oh look Ivor Million is now Gerry Mander.

Warren Alexander

29th July 2020 at 9:26 am

The PM is a man panicked and enfeebled by covid 19.

Paul Donaldson

29th July 2020 at 9:47 am

I believe that too.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 1:38 pm

Perhaps enfeebled even more by the brainwashed fake Tories surrounding him. Carrie supports Greater Funberg, I hear

Bella Donna

29th July 2020 at 8:56 am

The CONservatives have finally managed to disengage me from politics, I’m done listening to them. I think George Whales comment we voted for Churchill and got Benny Hill as nearer the truth.

Alan Vaughn

29th July 2020 at 9:22 am

More like we voted for Winston Churchill and got Pol Pot! Benny was fun, never played sadistic and authoritarian tyrant type characters.

James Clark

29th July 2020 at 11:06 am

The electorate were perfectly aware of Boris Johnson’s character when they gave the Tories a large majority, he’s never made a secret of the fact that he’s a shameless lying chancer who likes to wing it.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 1:51 pm

Come on! You’ll be listening to better types. I see it like this: Tories today are fake conservatives who fear offending and being shamed by nice leftists, so they appease them by aping their values and policies. By contrast, Trumps are real conservatives who mock and fight leftists, because they fear appeasing them. Trumps also know leftists will always hate conservatives and seek to assimilate them rather like the Borg, so their policies always aim to stop leftist influence and their ongoing takeover of the West.


29th July 2020 at 8:47 am

“Instead of having a clear vision for taking the country forward in a crisis, the government’s measures are confused and contradictory.” Rubbish.

I cannot tell who this Paddy Hannan is, but he appears to be trapped in the headlines of the moment. Not only is this lazy, it lacks any form of recollection of the Conservative manifesto.

I can assure you Mr Hannan that behind the scenes the quiet realigning of the levers of state have started. It is difficult work. The leveling up programme is starting. Of course you won’t see it because you would have to read long words and deep arguments. You also will not be invited into the meetings that I am, as a part of National Critical Infrastructure (as just one example).

This headline is sensational clickbait intern nonsense.

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2020 at 9:26 am

So we just take your “expert” assurance and opinion, which we are apparently qualified to listen to, but not sufficiently erudite to merit an explanation, far less understand?
Fancy coming into the polling booth with me to make sure I get it right?

What is the “leveling up programme”? What do you mean by “is starting”? – has started? is about to start? – help!

Tell me, Mr Rogers, did you read past the headline of this article?

Do you agree with schools who are refusing to make staff and pupils wear filthy masks for 7 hours a day?
What should be done with those who pull their masks aside to pick their noses?

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2020 at 9:51 am

You attack the writer on his age and status. But not the content of his article.

You then go on to say nothing but demonstrate your superiority complex.

Jerry Owen

29th July 2020 at 11:04 am

A meaningless comment.

Alan Vaughn

29th July 2020 at 7:50 am

As long as nobody resists and continues to subvert to this tyranny, (wearing dirty, ineffective and ridiculous masks, social distancing, agreeing to forgo our employment, close our businesses etc. etc.), they’ll just continue to stomp with their fascist jackboots all over our civil rights and remove more and more of our freedoms, until we are totally enslaved to them with no hope and no rights at all.
I disagree: the Tories haven’t lost the plot, but WE – the willing and dumbed-down serfs most certainly have lost it!

WAKE UP! We’re being lied to and PLAYED as fools.

Ian Murray

29th July 2020 at 10:40 am

Labelling the calorific content of a food product is now called ‘fascism’!

You people really need to get a life.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 2:09 pm

Another of your constant fallacies: the straw man argument

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2020 at 1:30 pm

Why do you call for atomised resistance which means people can picked off individually?

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 2:08 pm

The Tories haven’t lost the plot at all, they are just very usefully imposing the leftist plot on free societies. They are ventriloquated by leftist values, and so doing the left’s dirty work for them. The UK doesn’t have an anti-leftist government alternative, and probably hasn’t since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Imagine any Tory today standing up and saying “Britain First!” Tories would rather imprison anyone who does that, so spineless and captured are they today.

Ben Shirley

29th July 2020 at 7:19 am

A couple of days ago, I caught a bus (unmasked) into London, where I saw a bedraggled man rifling through a bin in the hope of finding something to eat. At first I thought ‘Poor man, he must be starving.’ Thanks to BJ for making it clear to me that his problem was not in fact one of starvation but one of permanent gluttony. People these days just cannot be trusted to exercise restraint in their diets.

With Johnson’s obesity epidemic in mind, I realised I should be gladdened by that greedy tramps failure to feed himself. It’s for his own good that he doesn’t overeat. Thanks for getting our priorities straight, Prime Minister.

Steve Roberts

29th July 2020 at 7:07 am

So Hannam believes the Conservatives are growing tired, out of touch and losing their way and indeed he seems surprised that they have not developed anything radical progressive and instead reverted to virtue signalling.
Or maybe this article is some sort of attempt at a neutral commentary piece, if not one can only conclude Hannam has not lost his way but simply ot found one politically.
Does he not understand that, despite opportunistic proclamations to the contrary at times, otherwise known as deceit and lying that the political class always indulge in, the entire established order have been on the journey of nanny stateing for decades in and out of government.
There is no surprise that the tories are embarking on such a programme along with the continuing support for identity politics, multiculturalism, unprecedented attacks on our freedoms etc, if it weren’t them it would be the LP or some other combination of the established order, this is the political history of this nation for decades.
Perhaps the author is still blinded by the light offered by the arch eventual appeaser to Theresa May,

Steve Roberts

29th July 2020 at 7:13 am

Steve Roberts continuation of post above …. who suddenly turned into an alleged democrat and brexit supporter, Boris Johnson.
To continue to express surprise in the activities of the establishment elites is extremely problematic, it contains within it a residual hope that they can be turned, changed and covinced of taking another path, time to wise up Mr Hannam and realise the serious obstacles in front of us all and use our time and energy towards developing a ew political life completely away from those that are now so destructively attacking our freedoms.

Stephen J

29th July 2020 at 6:18 am

They could try being “conservative”?

Otherwise we might forget that the the CONservative party is actually conservative….

… It is isn’t it? Well that’s what it says on the tin.

Brian Holloway

29th July 2020 at 5:25 am

This ‘global pandemic’ needs to be seen through the dull medium of facts instead of sensational media scare stories led by the BBC.
The fact is that this virus is killing no more people than a seasonal flu virus does. YES… ITS AN INCONVENIENT YET TRUE …FACT!
It should be shouted from the rooftops… masks discarded…. everybody back to work and no more social distancing.
Here’s one more fact. The fact that we are not going back to how we used to live…. is proof that there is a non violent sinister revolution happening right now… and we are sleepwalking into it… led by the sheeple who are desperate to comply because they’ve been frightened to death by the MSM.
It’s up to all of us who are awake to resist… otherwise a nightmare world awaits us all.

Ian Murray

29th July 2020 at 3:22 am

It takes a particular type of ‘libertarian’ mindset to interpret the provision of more information on food and drink packages as an outrage.

nick hunt

29th July 2020 at 2:15 pm

You repeat your sneering insult, which is a straw man argument. How persuasive. So why are you here, if not to persuade? Probably to relieve your hate, but certainly not to debate. How quintessentially leftist.

Gareth Edward KING

29th July 2020 at 1:21 am

Good on some supermarket chains that they refuse to enforce muzzle-wearing on their premises. In Madrid it ain’t like that! Last week I was caught with the mask below my chin and instructed in no uncertain terms to put it on! (well, it was ON). As soon as the guy’s back was turned I lowered it again, whereupon a junior employee went and snitched on me! I won’t be going there again. Isabel Díaz Ayuso (Madrid regional president) is planning to introduce a ‘Covid Card’ which contain details of the holder’s status. One can imagine if one’s ‘positive’ to Covid, although as has been pointed out many times, it’ll mean perfectly healthy people being confined at home. This is already happening in Lérida. Welcome to ‘extreme SW China’=formerly known as ‘Spain’.

Steve Roberts

29th July 2020 at 7:21 am

Interesting point about the “covid card” Gareth, just one more example of the new opportunities arising for the elites to re order society in more authoritarian ways, some soft some very overt and harsh. It would be no surprise for the clammer for identity cards to be re launched here in the UK, after all, and this is the entire justified narrative … its al beig doe to “protect citizens” in these covid times. The problem is that taking of the high moral ground, that has been hardly opposed as Lee explained so well with BON on the recent podcast, gives the elites limitless justification.
There are so many signs now of the relish, arrogance and urgency that elites are taking to establish this new normal, prepare for any eventuality, freedoms are been destroyed as never before even in war times.

James Knight

29th July 2020 at 6:25 pm

Either wear a mask or don’t wear a mask. But half wearing a mask is too pathetic for words.

Brandy Cluster

29th July 2020 at 12:52 am

The red herring; that classic gastronomic treat when everything else is inedible.

Stephen J

29th July 2020 at 6:32 am


George Whale

29th July 2020 at 12:15 am

A pretty good summing up of the inept ‘Conservative’ administration. As someone commented the other day, we voted for Churchill and got Benny Hill.

Travis Henderson

5th August 2020 at 8:07 am

Oh dear, oh dear, how apt!

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