The Sketch: Chewing the fat, philosophically, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth

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The Independent Online

There was an obesity thing on yesterday, but I wasn't brave enough to attend. The Government's turned against us. We are never safe. We "persons of size" used to be role models. In fact, the last eye-catching initiative on obesity consisted of some dippy minister - Tessa Jowell, probably - instructing television executives to put more happy fatsos on screen to reduce the incidence of anorexia. Now we're practically hiding in attics. How bewildering politics is.

Paul Burstow, a Liberal Democrat, rose from his place in the House to ask what happens to the fat that is extracted to produce low-fat foods. It's almost philosophical, isn't it? "Can we not bank the health dividend and make sure the fat doesn't find its way back into the food chain?" It was very hard to know what he meant but the Sketch pays tribute to John Prescott, who personally ensures a fat-free food chain for the rest of us.

Actually, this is unfair. Mr Prescott has lost some weight; we sense it rather than see it. Now, that's a definition of clinical obesity: it's when you can lose a stone without it being apparent.

Margaret Beckett has raised her game of late and now aspires to the very highest level of vacuity in her parliamentary answers: "We are looking very carefully at the concerns expressed and continue to keep the issues under constant review to achieve the longstanding objectives of what it is that people actually want in order that the process may be enhanced to the satisfaction of the people involved expressing the concerns that continue to keep the constant reviews under inspection."

Normally this doesn't matter much: she's only responsible for foot-and-mouth, abandoned cars and the submergence of the countryside under a mountain of waste. But she also answers for the Common Agriculture Policy and that should stir our collective conscience, if anything still does.

Hugh Bayley, a Labour MP, as succinctly as anyone has in the House, said there was no chance of global justice in trade unless net subsidies in agriculture were reduced. He's right. The inability of Third World farmers to compete with our mechanised divisions is due to the EU's monstrous, immoral subsidies. Mrs Beckett said his comments weren't helpful. She said: "We can indulge in philosophical speculation of an ideal world later on."

The Common Agriculture Policy has certainly killed many more people than Saddam Hussein. If only the Holy Ghost would guide our Prime Minister in this, he might be able to do something. He wouldn't even need the Americans.

Finally: Oliver Heald, a Tory, accused Tony Blair of being less than candid in the matter of horses being sent to southern Europe to be turned into salami. Mr Blair said he hadn't been aware of the issue despite a 65,000-signature petition that was delivered to Downing Street the week before. Peter Hain offered us Parliament's smallest rhetorical circle. "He said: the Prime Minister replied as he did and that is the case." That even beats Mrs Beckett.

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