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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 August 2020

Tories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system

  (Click to enlarge)

Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party

First, the elderly were told to shield from Covid-19. Then, statistics revealed a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minorities were dying from the virus. Now, obesity is being linked to a serious risk of fatality from the virus.

The common factor, however, is poverty. And poverty is written into the DNA of capitalism.

According to the Nuffield Trust, there is a strong association between deprivation and obesity in children. In 2018-19, the prevalence of obesity in those aged 10-11 was 27% in the most-deprived areas and 13% in the least-deprived areas. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight.

Poorer people suffer from a lack of decent housing, the gig economy and zero-hour contracts, low wages, Universal Credit and poor diets.

Government data revealed that during the first months of lockdown 3.7 million were forced to use food banks. You take what is offered, whether it is healthy or not.

Pre-pandemic council cuts have closed swimming pools and sold off playing fields and other sports facilities. Private gyms are too expensive if you're on a low wage or benefits even if you could afford the kit.

This pandemic has exposed inequalities in a most cruel way. Poverty, obesity and its related diseases make some people old or dead before their time. But don't worry, Boris Johnson has announced government plans to tackle obesity, possibly because of his own Covid brush with death.

The proposals include:

In other words, it's the individual's responsibility. "If we all do our bit," says Boris, living on a different planet to the rest of us, "we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus".

What choice?

How much choice do we really have in the food we buy and eat? Working parents arrive home shattered and have little time or energy to prepare a home-cooked dinner.

Families living on housing estates are often miles from shops selling fresh food as local shops cannot compete with the superstores.

Public transport has been drastically cut back and most people on benefits don't have cars. Chances are, though, there will be fast food outlets offering trans-fats, high-sugar, and high-salt cheap meals, made with inferior ingredients, nearby.

Obesity is not an 'individual's problem'. The food industry is responsible for driving down food standards and aggressively marketing unhealthy foods.

You can bet that even now, the food manufacturers are lobbying the government to water down its inadequate proposals.

ITV and Channel 4 have warned the government that the media sector will lose £200 million in advertising revenue from these proposals.

We can't even trust the research. The British Nutrition Foundation was funded by the sugar industry, with a vested interest in keeping our sugar consumption high. Instead, the emphasis on obesity is a lack of exercise or unbalanced diets, not junk food.

The Socialist Party demands:

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 5 August 2020:


NHS pay: 15% for all now

From first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures

Capitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

Tories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system

What we think

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation

Workplace news

Wales: GE Aviation workers march to save jobs

PCS union: Reject longer DWP opening hours

'First you clap us then you slap us': hundreds march for NHS pay rise

Sick pay victory at Homerton hospital!

Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

Oppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed

Workplace news in brief

No going back

What would socialist universities look like?


Cuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

Anniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally


A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

Fighting to end racism and capitalism

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest

Young Socialist day of action

Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women

Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person

The Socialist summer schedule


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