If I were Prime Minister: I'd promote fruit’n’veg, ban chewing gum, and bring back Crackerjack

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the broadcaster, entrepreneur and food campaigner

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The Independent Online

First up, before you read this and think “What’s he doing now?!”, I’ve been asked to write this piece and it’s a bit of fun – I’m not campaigning for a political role. But since I’ve been asked, here’s a snapshot of what my Britain would look like if I were Prime Minister. Quite simply, public health and well-being would be at the heart of all policy, consistently, across everything. I believe that if you get that right, then the effects of optimal happiness, confidence and productivity would be widely felt, making us not only one of the healthiest countries in Europe, but also one of the most creative and prosperous. As a nation, we can only be as good as what we eat. So what does the future look like?

Getting the nation to eat more vegetables and fruit would not only give us a radically different health prognosis but would be better for the environment, too. To help and inspire people to eat at least five a day, there would be zero VAT on all fresh vegetables and fruit. I’d give more support to organic, small, family farmers. All supermarket deals and promotions for processed foods would have to be matched with ones for fresh ingredients, to make it a level playing field and encourage people to cook from scratch. And we’d have the clearest and most honest food labelling in the world.

If public health were central, food and agriculture would be removed from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with America. The only way is up – we want to go forwards, not back. There would be some sort of soda tax, and that money would be ring-fenced and split between a robust board of education and health experts, passionate about prevention. My revulsion at seeing the effects of infants drinking caffeine-laden energy drinks would drive me to put health warnings and age-restrictions on the sale of all energy drinks.

Civic food in every hospital and old people’s home would be consistently good and nourishing, and poor quality fast-food outlets would certainly not be allowed to operate in the basements of government property or right next to schools. As our population gets older, we need to have greater respect for people in their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond, and also tap into their wisdom and experience.

More resources would be put into supporting women to eat well in pregnancy and to enable mums to breastfeed. The health benefits for the child are great. Breastfeeding helps to protect mums from certain cancers, and breast milk is a fully sustainable resource that we should value.

I’m well aware that this is a controversial area but we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss and debate it because the evidence shows that a lot of mums want to breastfeed. We have international codes to protect infant feeding. We should put these into law and stop the advertising of unnecessary products which undermine breastfeeding – such as follow-on formula. Greater day-care subsidy for working parents would also be high on my list.

Outside of the food industry there’s plenty to focus on, too. I believe if the right routes exist, kids should be allowed to leave school at 14 to take up an apprenticeship. My experience at Fifteen restaurant has proved that intervening at an early stage and providing young, at-risk people with good role models, inspiration and a path to follow really is worthwhile in preventing them ending up as a statistic in jail. The Head of Education would be a teacher, not a transient politician, and they woud be led and incentivised in a more entrepreneurial way. There would be clear standards on packed lunches – the current situation undermines teachers and school cooks.

I’d ban chewing gum until they can invent one that doesn’t make every street in Britain look like a bomb site. I’d buy back the train network, the electricity network, and the water network and only charge cost prices. And I’d add a few more bank holidays – they’re good for family time and cultural richness. I also want to save a bit of energy by turning national wi-fi off on a Sunday so that parents can get their kids back for the day. I’d increase the speed limit on certain roads, mainly the ones I drive home on. I’d bring back Crackerjack, PJ & Duncan and Tales of the Unexpected, and I’d subsidise good pillows.

Now don’t be tempted to start picking holes in my manifesto. This is just a flavour. But the reality is that my Britain would be a tastier, healthier, happier, cleaner place to live. And as far as representing the modern woman goes, rest assured I am your man. A) I’m in touch with my feminine side, B) I appreciate being fashion-forwards, and C) I can only function surrounded by 80 per cent women, so you’d be well represented.

To sign and share Jamie’s Petition for Better Food Education go to change.org/jamieoliver

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