There is one big—very big—thing to be said for Britain’s bumbling Conservative government: It’s all that stands between the U.K. and rule by a Labour Party now in thrall to the hard left.
But apart from that, which in a way is everything, there is not much else to cheer for.
Something, however, that can be said about (but not for) today’s Tories, is that, for a party nominally of the center-right, they appear to have no proper understanding of where the line should be drawn between the power of the state and the rights of the individual.
Case in point: Britain’s new ‘sugar tax’.
From Friday manufacturers have [had] to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks they sell. Ministers and campaigners believe it has already proved to be a success with many firms reducing sugar content ahead of the change. But others say it is still too early to judge the impact.
Leading brands such as Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have cut the sugar content of drinks, but Coca-Cola has not.
The Daily Mirror (from November):
Sales of Lucozade Energy drinks have fizzled out after its makers changed the drink’s recipe, a new report reveals. Lucozade has lost sales of more than £25million in the past year after the maker’s decision to reduce the amount of sugar, sparking complaints from consumers about the change in the traditional taste.
Trade magazine The Grocer reported today that a year after announcing plans for a major reformulation to duck under the government’s sugar levy, sales of Lucozade Energy drink brand have fallen by 8.4 per cent year on year.
Back to the BBC:
The introduction of the levy means the UK joins a small handful of nations, including Mexico, France and Norway, which have introduced similar taxes.
The levy is being applied to manufacturers – whether they pass it on to consumers or not is up to them. Drinks with more than 8g per 100ml will face a tax rate equivalent to 24p per litre. Those containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml will face a slightly lower rate of tax, of 18p per litre.
Pure fruit juices will be exempt as they do not carry added sugar, while drinks with a high milk content will also be exempt due to their calcium content.
Keep that last sentence in mind. Also tell yourself that the ‘slippery slope’ is a myth. Then read this from yesterday’s London Evening Standard:
[Treasury minister] Robert Jenrick [not ‘Jenvrik’; his name was misspelled in the original story] told the Standard that the new tax on fizzy drinks, which came into force today, had proved a huge success by persuading the soft drinks industry to slash the amount of sugar in products aimed at children.
‘For the children’. Of course.
The Evening Standard (my emphasis added):
Mr Jenrick said the Government could consider a similar tax on sweets and chocolate in future if it was needed to encourage healthier recipes.
He said makers of sugary milk drinks were already in the Government’s sights, with a target to cut sugar levels by a fifth by 2020 or they could face similar action.
So calcium doesn’t count for so much after all. The Conservatives’ promise that they would leave milk drinks alone was worthless. Big government politicians are like that. There is always a next step.
There is also something singularly joyless about the likes of Jenrick, a ‘conservative’ so convinced that government knows best that he wants to bully people about what they eat and also, in this case, drink.
Back in the 19th Century, the British writer (he was a lot more than that, but that description will do for now) Walter Bagehot observed that the ‘essence of Toryism is enjoyment’.
That was then.