The Third Leader: Getting exercised

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The Independent Online

Phew! Excuse me while I get my breath back. Inspired by the Prime Minister's call to take more responsibility for my health, I've introduced a new exercise regime, which involves standing up and sitting down at the end of every sentence, and which might explain why this one seems to be going on for such a long time.

Thank you. Damn. And forgive me for the facetiousness: this is a serious matter. We should applaud Mr Blair's decision to move from the nanny state to individual responsibility.

Nevertheless, I note that he spoke not only of the Government encouraging and informing - the PE teacher state? - but of it also being prepared to act, "if necessary, in a tougher way than ever before". And that, if I remember, is what he said to Saddam Hussein, so watch it, you on the sofa.

Further encouragement was provided by the announcement that 500 NHS jobs are to go in Sunderland. Who says this Government doesn't do joined-up thinking?

But I was sorry that the Prime Minister had no further exercise advice of the sort he offered in April: getting off the bus a stop early, for example. That, though, was always going to be a difficult one to enforce without identity cards. No, for me, the way forward was pointed out by Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, who also called on each of us to think about microgeneration. So what about harnessing exercise output on rowing and cycling machines? Or treadmills. In which connection, I might also refer you to yesterday's Saga survey disclosing that 75,000 people over 50 "have found love in their local gym". Phew!

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