By Sarah Bates
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2715

Boris Johnson peddles obesity line to deflect blame for virus deaths

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Issue 2715
Tory prime minister wants to blame ordinary peoples diets
Tory prime minister Boris Johnson wants to blame ordinary people’s diets (Pic: Downing Street/Flickr )

The Tories are getting stuck into their latest tactic to divert blame from their own fatal failings.

They claim to be focusing on the “time bomb” of obesity in the latest part of their battle against the coronavirus.

They want to shift the focus from the disproportionate deaths due to racism and poverty.

The government has said it will ban junk food adverts before 9pm. It also plans to launch a consultation on whether that should be extended to a blanket ban on adverts for sweets and fast food online.

Other measures include a ban on the sale of chocolates, crisps and sweets at checkouts, and instructing restaurants and pubs to display calories on their menus.

‘We’ve been thrown on the scrap heap by the Tories’
‘We’ve been thrown on the scrap heap by the Tories’
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Even if the government’s desire to tackle obesity were genuine, these measures don’t address the issue.

Andrew Goddard, Royal College of Physicians president, said that obesity was “the result of biological, genetic and social factors”.

“There is a risk that we once again fall into the trap of mainly focusing on individual responsibility,” he said. “We’ve been down this path before and it doesn’t work.

“We know the key to success in addressing obesity and other health inequalities lies in shared responsibility between individuals and the state.”

The government push came as it was revealed that poor people are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 (see below).

The government is heavily highlighting the narrative that being obese makes it more likely that people will be admitted to intensive care units with coronavirus. To announce its new anti-obesity drive, Boris Johnson boasted that he had lost a stone in weight since contracting Covid-19.

“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus—as well as taking pressure off the NHS,” he said.


On a visit to a GP surgery in east London last week, Johnson was asked to acknowledge any blunders he had made in his handling of the pandemic. He replied, “It would be invidious to single out any particular mistake.”

But it is possible to point to a series of deadly mistakes his government has made.

If obesity is rising, blame poverty, profit and stress
If obesity is rising, blame poverty, profit and stress
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Instead of rectifying the errors of the first Covid-19 wave and pouring money into health and care, the government is pointing the finger at ordinary people’s diets.

Instead of a managed and safe reopening of the economy, shops and restaurants have been allowed to open their doors while the rate of transmission remains very high.

And instead of making healthy food free or very cheap, unhealthy junk food is still the cheapest option for many. It’s a damning example of how they care more for the health of the bosses’ profit margins, then ordinary people.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme slashes the price of food in restaurants such as McDonalds, Nando’s and Burger King by half throughout August.

It shows their pledge to take on obesity is driven by a desire to grab headlines and pass the blame, not out of concern for people’s health.

Covid-19 crisis hits women’s lives harder

The full extent of the coronavirus crisis on working women was exposed last week in new research.

A survey of 19,950 mothers and pregnant women by the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign showed how the response to the pandemic is smashing apart women’s lives.

A majority of women—72 percent—have had to cut back on their work hours and 65 percent of mothers who have been furloughed say a lack of childcare was the reason.

Yet from 1 August, many women will be forced back into the workplace, despite a lack of available childcare.

Almost no holiday schemes for children will be running and many grandparents who shoulder some childcare responsibility will be shielding.

Women, the family and the coronavirus crisis
Women, the family and the coronavirus crisis
  Read More

Joeli Brearley, Pregnant Then Screwed founder said, “The government measures “completely ignore the realities facing women”.

“This lack of childcare is destroying women’s careers.

“They are being made redundant, they are being forced to cut their hours, and they are being treated negatively all because they are picking up the unpaid labour,” she said.

The sexist way that women are being treated by the Tory government shows the contempt that they have for ordinary people—and for the women that have borne the brunt of this crisis.


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