Friday 29 April 2016


Have you noticed how changes to the use of language are often employed to soften us up to accept extensions to the power of the state over our daily lives? An example is the increasing use of the term ‘health and wellbeing’. It is no longer enough for the state to provide a health service that treats illness and disease; it must now, and increasingly does, focus on a much more nebulous task – the provision of ‘wellbeing’. Now, call me old fashioned, but back in the day you were healthy if you weren’t unhealthy, i.e., suffering from a recognised medical condition. If you were suffering from an illness or disease then a doctor would diagnose it, and treat you or cure you, or not as the case may be. But ‘wellbeing’, or the lack of, is a subjective condition, not an objective one, and its link to ‘health’ provides the opportunity for all kinds of state-sponsored mischief. In fact, wellbeing isn’t that far away from the concept of ‘happiness’. 

So what happens if our National Health Service morphs into a National Health and Wellbeing Service? Or even a National Health, Wellbeing and Personal Happiness Service? A bottomless money-pit is the inevitable result. And there are people out there who no doubt have the best of intentions, but consider it their business to poke their noses into all sorts of things that really aren’t their business, in the name of ‘health and wellbeing’. 

Which brings me to Councillor Izzy Seccombe. Izzy, as I shall henceforth refer to her, is the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community and Wellbeing spokeswoman. Now, we all know that councils are strapped for cash, but they still have enough money to fund surveys by the LGA into vital matters, such as how many people drink tap water when they are dining out (I kid you not). The LGA’s survey apparently discovered that only a third of diners drink tap water when eating out. But don’t worry, Izzy was soon on the case. She said this: “While most restaurants will happily provide a glass of tap water on request, we’re saying it shouldn’t be something you have to ask for. Some people may be too embarrassed. Others may simply forget it’s an option.”

You’d have to be extraordinarily absent minded to forget that you can drink water if you’re thirsty, but “embarrassed”?  If asking for a glass or jug of tap water in a pub or restaurant embarrasses you, then I fear that your life may consist of a never-ending series of insurmountable challenges. So, let me offer a bit of scenario training:

I rock-up at a pub restaurant with my friends and I’m greeted by a member of staff: 
“Good evening sir!”
“Good evening. I have a table booked for four adults and two kids – in the name of Chase.” (member of staff consults list). 
“Yes sir, come right this way.” (We sit down and menus are distributed). 
She asks: “Would you like to order some drinks while you’re looking at the menu?” 
“Bill, Ben, what would you like? Two pints of IPA please; and could I have a bottle of Shiraz for me and my partner? Oh, and a jug of iced water for the kids?” 
“Yes sir!”

You see how this works Izzy? Not a trace of embarrassment.

But Izzy wheels out the ultimate justification for health and wellbeing: “what about the children?” She wants water on the table whether you ask for it or not because it will help in the “fight against childhood obesity”. And because it might also protect adults from the temptation (that’s the word she uses) of “that extra alcoholic drink”. And she is not alone in her concerns. Russ Ludwa, chairman of the British Dental Association’s health and science committee said: “Diners deserve a choice, but shouldn’t feel they have to ask for the one option that doesn’t come bundled with sugars, acids or calories.” Er, Russ, asking for what you want is called ‘consumer choice’, it’s what we do when we go out and buy things.

I have visited numerous countries around the world, and the only one where you almost invariably get offered water whether you want it or not is America. So obviously they are a nation of slim people right? Oh no, they’re not – they’ve got the biggest obesity problem of any nation on earth!

The fundamental problem here is that these people don’t have enough to do. Giving ‘health’, let alone ‘health and wellbeing’, to local councils was a fundamental mistake. It awoke all these virtue-signalling local nannies from their slumber, and invited them to join in a chorus with all the other fuss buckets that want to regulate the tick and tock of other peoples’ lives. 

“Off with their heads” I say!

Paul Chase

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