The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Way of the World Michael Deacon

- At opinion

Something very strange seems to have come over this country. Every day of the week we’re confronted with fresh evidence that the people who govern us are cataclysmi­cally incompeten­t. And yet, at the same time, we clamour to give these risible duds even more control over our lives than they already have.

For proof, see the results of a new YouGov poll about junk food. More than 2,000 British adults were asked whether they want the Government to ban TV ads for junk food before 9pm. And a whopping 75 per cent said yes.

I find this depressing. Not because I care about the profit margins of McDonald’s, or because I think obesity isn’t a problem. It’s because the poll suggests that, as a country, we’ve lost the ability, or even the will, to take responsibi­lity for our own actions.

According to the NHS, two thirds of this country’s adults are overweight. Clearly, therefore, there’s a substantia­l overlap between “people who eat a lot of junk food” and “people who want the Government to ban ads for junk food”. Which means that a remarkably large number of us appear to believe that it’s the Government’s job to sort out our diet, because we can’t possibly be expected to sort it out ourselves. Apparently, we’re so pathetical­ly weak-willed that every time we so much as glimpse an ad for fried chicken, we’re powerless to prevent ourselves waddling straight off to KFC – or, if that feels too much like exercise, firing up Just Eat for a truckload of drumsticks.

Supporters of a ban may argue that it’s their children they’re trying to protect. They don’t want their impression­able offspring to be exposed to these horrible ads. But that’s pathetic, too. After all, their children aren’t in charge of the family grocery shopping. Are today’s parents so pitifully craven that whenever their squalling brats demand junk food, they just cave in and buy it? Are they incapable of saying no?

I’m not suggesting that we raise our children on nothing but carrots and water. I let my son have sugary snacks. Recently, I even bought a box of the widely decried new KitKat breakfast cereal, so we could find out whether it was as hideous as it sounded (answer: no. It’s even worse). But these are only occasional treats, not his daily diet. And even if he were subsisting exclusivel­y on deep-fried Creme Eggs, that would be my fault, not the Government’s.

But perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, and personal responsibi­lity is a relic of the past, as quaint as mangles and rotary telephones. These days, it seems, we expect the Government to raise our children for us. We want Rishi Sunak to make them eat their greens. Jeremy Hunt to read them

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