Our right to die young is under attack

The TaxPayers' Alliance defends our prerogative to get fat without state meddling. Don't tell them it will put up future tax bills

Share
Related Topics

It was a particularly bad week for the principle of laissez-faire. Leveson finally pronounced judgement on the Fourth Estate, and the Government submitted its hotly contested proposals for minimum alcohol pricing, while the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence weighed in with a series of schemes to promote better health and reduce disease in later life. These included a suggestion that drivers should be charged more for parking as a way of forcing them out of their cars, that journeys by foot or bicycle must become the norm, and that people should be encouraged to forswear the habit of using their vehicles for trips of under a mile.

It was all too much for the Daily Mail, which not only ran an inflammatory headline about "nanny watchdogs" interfering in our lives, but produced a character named Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of something called the TaxPayers' Alliance, to fulminate about "bone-headed meddling". According to Mr Sinclair's harangue, "things are tough enough for the taxpayer already without interfering health bureaucrats trying to make parking more expensive". Parking charges damaged the high street, he went on, placed an unnecessary burden on struggling businesses and made life "even harder for households just trying to make ends meet".

There is nothing in England quite so amusing as the spectacle of an affronted bourgeois complaining that his rights – in this case the right to clog up both the street and his own arteries – are being trampled on by wicked bureaucrats. But surely if Mr Sinclair were really concerned about the burdens heaped on the suffering taxpayer he would be applauding initiatives of this kind? After all, the Mail story went on to report that only 29 per cent of women are achieving even the minimum levels of exercise thought necessary for good health, all of which will mean billions of pounds added to NHS bills a decade or so down the line.

Exactly the same note was struck in the volley of complaints about governmental "penalising" of the responsible drinker – the thought of minor personal inconvenience being more important than communal duty. Naturally, "freedom" means different things to different people but, to a right-wing newspaper, it nearly always seems to mean the freedom to exploit other people and allow the vulnerable to become even more ground-down.

...

Christopher Ray, chief executive of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, could recently be found protesting that his own privately educated students were being obstructed in their path through higher education by positive discrimination favouring those from the state sector. Such bias is needed, its supporters maintain, because state-school pupils lack the contacts that will procure them internships, work placements and the incidental know-how that enables middle-class candidates to manipulate the system to their own advantage.

All this realised some guilt-ridden reflections from The Tablet's Peter Stanford, who owned up to having used parental influence to secure his son a "day-in-the-life" visit to a hospital ward, via the agency of a friendly consultant. He contrasted this string-pulling with the fate of another pupil at his son's school, equally set on becoming a doctor, but with no "privileged access", who, unable to produce evidence of volunteering experience at his university interviews, collected a pile of rejection letters so high that he gave up altogether and opted for a different course.

Stanford quoted Lord Longford, a minister in the egalitarian Attlee government, who sent his own offspring to private schools. "You can't visit your principles on your children," Longford advised. But the point about parental influence, surely, is that it gets exercised on every rung of the social ladder. It is a fact, for example, that staffing levels in the post-war docks and print industries were kept up by nepotistic fathers acquiring union cards for their sons. This differs in degree from the layabouts of my Oxford generation who strolled into stockbroking courtesy of papa, but not in kind.

And what kind of parent declines to use such influence as lies to hand in their children's service? I once sat at dinner next to an eminent novelist who seemed to take a positive pride in the fact that her daughter had been to such a bad school that she reached her mid-teens in a state of near-illiteracy. Clearly some fine moral point was being canvassed here, but I couldn't see what it was.

...

The treatment dished out to Nadine Dorries, now returned from her jungle sojourn, continues to mystify. When last heard of, Ms Dorries was being told by her whips that she was "on probation" and that there was a need for "bridge-building" with the colleagues and constituents she so capriciously deserted. And yet Ms Dorries is guilty of only mild irresponsibility, a failing which, when set against the genuine incompetence displayed by some of her parliamentary companions, can seem pretty small beer.

Take, for example, the exploits of Ed Vaizey, the libraries minister. The British library system, in case you hadn't noticed, is currently being dismembered. Only last week, Newcastle City Council declared that half of its 18 branches may have to close. From Mr Vaizey, despite the statutory powers at his disposal, comes not the merest cheep of disquiet. You might think that he needs to start building a few bridges as well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape