As a child growing up in the 1980s there were only two sounds that would make my heart ache with a giddy sense of pure joy ; the theme tune of ‘He Man and the Masters of the Universe’, and my mother uttering the words, “You can get a 10p mix.” Coke bottles, flying saucers, white gems, vampire teeth, cherry lips, coconut mushrooms, candy necklaces. To this day I can’t look at a selection of penny sweets without smiling, the very taste of childhood innocence. We even picked them with our grubby, little fingers – not a scoop in sight. The thought that the state could interfere with this sacred relationship between child and corner shop owner is thoroughly unpleasant and casts the PM as a real bully – forget the bedroom tax or cutting child tax credits, taking blackjacks out of schoolboys’ pockets is about as low as anyone can stoop!
The Sugar Tax is what happens when TV chefs dictate government policy. I would expect nothing less from a Labour administration, but for a Conservative government to enact such a patronising, interfering policy is tragic. Yes, we are getting fatter and, yes, the NHS will struggle to cope but when has it not?
It is practicality part of the NHS business model that it must always be on the precipice; such is the size and scope of its remit. There are numerous ways to fund healthcare in a period of increased demand and while many of them may be ideologically offensive to those of a socialist persuasion surely some involvement of the private sector is preferable to a tax on taste?
It is the ultimate in killjoy legislation and the epitome of the-state-knows-best attitude. It’s an affront to liberty and an insult to the idea of choice and personal responsibility. The sugar tax masquerades as a common sense funding solution to a pressing issue but in reality it’s nothing more than further encroachment of the state into our private lives.
Where will it end? Are there any untaxed pleasures left? Minimum alcohol pricing is permanently on the agenda and you now need to arrange an appointment with your bank manager before you can buy twenty fags. What’s next? Bouncy castles? Balloons? Beaches? Panini sticker albums? For many on low incomes a Mars bar or a can of Tizer is the one affordable luxury they enjoy.
Besides, we all know where this is leading; manufacturers will replace sugar with sweeteners and in 20 years’ time we’ll discover that the alternative is actually worse for us than the original, just as it happened with butter and margarine. In the meantime, they’ll suck a little bit more joy out of all our lives. Big Brother strikes again.
However, by far the worst aspect of the Sugar Tax is that it will prove to be completely counter-productive. Nobody will stop buying Kit Kats because they’re 5p more expensive, but after the sugar tax is imposed on your weekly shop it will mean less money to spend on fruit, vegetables and fresh meat. You never find a shrivelled, limp Twix at the bottom of your fridge. Sweets last an age and keep kids happy. For any mum on a budget it’s a no-brainer. Making confectionery more expensive will simply make it less likely that low income families eat a healthy balanced diet.
The sugar tax is a piece of legislation that Tony Blair would have been proud of and by proposing it the Prime Minister looks every bit the successor to Blair’s legacy. David Cameron will not be around forever, indeed he increasingly looks like a man on borrowed time, and whoever succeeds him must cease this relentless lurch to the centre ground and the pursuit of pernicious nanny state policies.
These are uncertain times for the Conservative party and the surest way to guarantee the party’s survival in the aftermath of the EU referendum is to adopt an uncompromising, unambiguously conservative platform. The time is fast approaching but the question remains – Will a real conservative leader please stand up?
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty