When defending freedom of choice and personal responsibility in recent years, one could be forgiven for thinking that such concepts have become extinct among the modern politician so enthralled by input from (mostly state-funded) professionals whose income depends on creating scare stories about everyday consumer products.
The public – who exhibit their preferences everyday by buying things which they deem to render them good value – often appear to have been sidelined by MPs in favour of vested interests who wish to tell politicians what choices their electors should be making.
So it is to Con4Lib’s great credit that they secured Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons on Wednesday for a serious political event to challenge the idea that the public is incapable of making rational choices on what they eat, drink, vape (look it up) and smoke.
Just because some tax-reliant rent-seeker decides that fizzy drinks, McDonald’s Big Macs, or even 20 Marlboro, are undesirable and unhealthy, it shouldn’t mean that any consumer must be classed as irrational for deciding to make a trade-off between health and pleasure. We make such mundane decisions every day, balancing risk against the enjoyment we derive from anything from boarding an aircraft to eating that steak which is only a day or two out of date. They are entirely rational choices and made in full knowledge of risk which the public is quite capable of balancing.
Wednesday’s healthy dose of common sense, encouragingly delivered by five MPs (including three from the 2015 intake), seemed to recognise that the public are, indeed, a cohort who should be listened to more closely when it comes to lifestyle issues.
Every time a parent buys their child a 7Up, they are not inflicting impending death as proponents of an absurd sugar tax would have you believe, they are instead balancing the wants of their offspring with their own parental responsibility. Only the most arrogant and aloof of politicians could assume that they know better than parents what is good for their children, and the assumption that parental responsibility is automatically flawed is a very long way from what Conservatives should believe.
Likewise, the government’s obligation towards adults is to provide an environment whereby healthy choices are able to be made, not to enforce such choices when the public decides the risk is worth taking. This seems to have been forgotten by many MPs faced with an avalanche of illiberal demands from vested interests who would like to pervert the historical relationship between politician and public choice.
Lucy Allan MP conveyed this very well by objecting to “the authoritarian interventionist state” and confessed that she couldn’t possibly be minister for ‘public health’ at the moment when it is focussed on ordering free citizens what to consume.
Similarly, James Cleverly MP stated quite rightly that “liberty means nothing if we have no liberty to make the ‘wrong’ choices”, and that he didn’t “want to live in a country with codified personal choice”. There was, he suggested, a word for that, “and it is fascism”.
Consistent champion of freedom of choice David Nuttall MP also bemoaned the “relentless march of the nanny state” and highlighted that they could never be appeased; that every new law is “banked” by ‘public health’ before they move onto the next demand. If anything, standing up to those who incessantly seek to remove the public’s choice should make a politician’s job easier, not more arduous, since it would deter the next knock on the door from someone wanting to ban Coco Pops or bacon.
The evening was rounded off with something of a comedy routine from the IEA’s Chris Snowdon. He didn’t have to do much else to make the packed room laugh except recite some of the daft claims that ‘public health’ careerists have come out with in the very recent past. The hysteria which believes “cheese is as addictive as heroin” and “sausages are as dangerous as plutonium” is quite easy to ridicule, yet politicians believe crazy people like that every day when they baselessly screech that sugar is a child-killing toxin, or e-cigarettes are encouraging children to smoke, when population data routinely points in the polar opposite direction.
Such common sense should be welcomed from politicians in the Conservative party, and it was extremely encouraging to see the event over-subscribed. Conservative MPs would do well to remember that it is not just Conservative voters who are increasingly irritated by the state creeping into their lives and personal choices, it is also a concern which has driven much support away from Labour and towards UKIP.
MPs should always remember that individual freedoms and personal choice are popular, while no-one likes a nag, especially when it comes to what an individual freely chooses to consume or feed their family. Politicians may choose to ignore that incontrovertible fact, but it will be at their peril.
The Medieval Dick Puddlecote was bankrupted and brutalised by state corruption and theft. So he thought it perfectly fair to take the Crown Jewels in recompense. The King didn’t like that much and had him flayed in 1305. The modern day Dick Puddlecote is also pretty hacked off with the state taking the piss. Read his blog and follow him on Twitter: @