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Return of the WIDGs

    Last year I wrote about the ‘well-intentioned do-gooders’ who seek to ‘save us’ by inhibiting our right to make choices about our lifestyle. As I said, it is not an uncommon theme and several stories from the last couple of weeks continue in the same vein.

    First we had Labour’s amendment to the Children and Families Bill which has been approved by the Lords. The amendment gives the government power to make it illegal to smoke in a car when a child is present, and Labour has indicated it would seek to enact the law should it be elected, if the current government does not.

    Is smoking around your child an intelligent decision? No, it is stupidity and bad parenting. These things should not be crimes by themselves. With the link between passive smoking and moderate childhood exposure tenuous at best (so much for ‘evidence-based policy’), this has more than a touch of ‘just sounds right’ policy-making about it.

    Some politicians believe they have the right to step into your personal property and regulate your private behaviour, as well legislate for the upbringing of your child. The home cannot be far behind the car. Already it has been mooted that pregnant women who smoke or drink could face some sort of legal sanction – I assume the argument about legislating over a woman’s body does not apply to those who obviously have our best interests at heart.

    Yesterday the World Health Organisation released a report on future projections for global cancer rates. They warned of a strain on cancer care caused by the growing number of cases - something that is likely to impact our system of healthcare more as it is paid by all through general taxation rather than the user. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that population growth and ageing populations are behind the coming rise in people suffering from the disease.

    A little more surprising was that the report was used as a preface for an attack on people’s right to make what some consider unhealthy choices – in a chilling article for The Guardian the World Cancer Report’s Bernard Stewart set out the case against personal choice: “It is regulations and laws to influence behaviour that will likely prove our most effective weapon.”

    Rather than look to medical innovation - that has seen life expectancy rocket – to deal with this rise, or providing more information so that consumers can make healthier choices (while still allowing them the freedom to indulge every now and then), those in the business of government seek the easy path of reaching for legislation. Something must be done, and passing a law is far more tangible proof of intention than, for example, the hardworking scientists who have led to more people surviving cancer than ever before. Spare the rod, spoil the child.

    So how might our lives look when the WIDG’s get their way? One precursor might be the treatment of a 6-year old boy at Colnbrook Church of England School, near Slough. Suspended because his parents placed a pack of Mini Cheddars in his lunchbox (apparently the last straw in a flouting of the school’s ‘healthy eating policy’), The Sun is reporting he has now been expelled over his parent’s decision to speak to the newspaper about their belief they know best for their own child.

    Don’t be too hard on Colnbrook, they have got the boys’ best interests at heart. 

    Lewis joined the Centre for Policy Studies in April 2011 with responsibility for social media and digital engagement.

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