Following the submission by Trudy Harrison (“Weighty issue”, The Whitehaven News politics column, July 29) I found little to educate me about the Government’s new obesity drive other than the weight of the incumbent MP (if she is teetering on the overweight side then I am morbidly obese.

This isn’t the first strategy to be unleashed on the public. It might be the first inspired by a Prime Minister surviving an infection in the middle of a pandemic and undergoing an apparent epiphany after blaming his body weight for the severity of his resulting illness.

There is a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot attitude to get people losing weight to mitigate the long term-health repercussions of a second wave of Covid-19.

Some parts of the strategy have been considered, while others require consistent messaging, clarity and leave a lot to be desired. We are being asked to ‘eat out to help out’ to boost the economy, but control our calorie intake.

I understand that the purpose of this scheme is to help kick-start the restaurant industry, but surely there is the opportunity, with deeper thought, to help both restaurants and incentivise the choosing of healthier options? In effect the Government is trying to police aspects of our shopping habits by banning so called ‘BOGOF’ offers on certain foods – all well and good if you have a small family; if not, with packed lunches to make you could be paying three times over.

I agree with banning adverts for unhealthy products before 9pm, but we need to be careful about what messaging we give to children. There are certain yoghurts, milk shakes, and cheese snacks which could be classed a healthy option but parents pay a premium for.

We don’t need to promote calorie counting for kids – calorie intake and nutrition don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Who will be making decisions about what is classed as healthy? How about foods like faux-meat plant-based burgers, or fruit juices or smoothies that have somehow acquired a ‘health halo’, but have as much (or sometimes more) fat, sugar or salt than what most would consider ‘junk food’? Is a burger and fries from a fancy restaurant ‘healthier’ for you than one from a fast-food joint?

It is important that there be an effort to consider the actual nutritional content of the foods in question. We can’t forget our farmers in this, many people are moving towards a vegan diet it’s vital that the merits of our own Cumbrian produce aren’t diminished.

This plan doesn’t tackle the root cause of obesity, which stems, in large part, from individuals with susceptible genes being exposed to a permissive environment. Simply telling people to eat less and be more healthy, without a concerted effort to fix the broader food environment, will only ever be effective in the short-term if at all.

The document also doesn’t address the relevance of privilege in the ability of people to make healthy choices. Privilege comes in three different flavours: money, time and knowledge. The lower down the socio-economic ladder one goes, the less of all three flavours of privilege one is likely to have.

If you have less money and you really haven’t the time or any idea how to quickly assemble a meal, from scratch, to feed the kids, then you are going to have to make the choices that you have to make. For many, the ‘healthy’ option is simply not affordable or convenient.

Nope. Lack of privilege leads to poor choices or none at all. We need to check our privilege before accusing others of lacking motivation.

To make real progress, we need better investment to understand the biology of food intake; we need structural changes in society to fix privilege and food insecurity; we need to acknowledge that body weight, for a myriad of different biological and societal reasons, is not a choice.

Make the healthy choice the cheaper, more convenient and easier option and we’re on our way to fixing the problem.


Jewish Labour affiliate

Give us honesty, not gloss

You published a letter from Copeland’s deputy mayor David Moore which was effectively a personal attack on me and the minor political career I had during my early retirement (The Whitehaven News, letters, July 29). This is a classic tactic – “look over there” and “what about ….” as used by embarrassed politicians everywhere.

As I am well into my 70s and had a pretty full, generally successful real career, I have been criticised by far more formidable figures than Mr Moore. I would still question, though, whether a senior councillor is following the Code of Conduct in so publicly criticising a member of the public who is not in elected office and has no party political affiliation?

In his letter he did not attempt to address any of the points made in my previous correspondence which called into question the leadership of both Copeland Borough Council and Whitehaven Town Council. Let me be clear (if I wasn’t before), as a Council Tax payer I am suggesting that leadership, in the case of the borough council, is weak, self-serving and does not deliver, despite claiming credit for project after project which mostly turn out to be either an illusion or wishful thinking.

The hypocrisy shown by the mayor in giving up his independent label and joining the Conservatives plus my concern that a number of matters have been concealed behind a bureaucratic wall are all too real.

Another issue is the almost wilful failure to establish an agreed Copeland Local Plan as required by government and against which almost all government investment and planning decisions are made. This alone has left the borough and its Council Tax payers at a great disadvantage.

Let’s have some openness and honesty, not just gloss, waffle and self-justification for a change



Let's see fair play over village hall

Like I suspect many others, I was not surprised that the existing planning permission for 27 homes to be built in Lamplugh on green fields, within spitting distance of the National Park, against massive local opposition and given only on the condition that an unwanted extra village hall be provided for the community, should possibly now be changed.

No extra hall BUT instead an application for two further homes with NO benefit to the local community, only the developer who one wonders might well have considered this outcome likely from the outset.

When the original planning was considered, the existing Village Hall was well advanced with fundraising to achieve a rebuild. Lamplugh community and some notable stalwarts devoted endless time and energy to the project.

Copeland planning were, or certainly should have been, well aware of this. Despite this, planning permission was granted.

If, surprise surprise, permission was given for two more – presumably unaffordable – houses, it would only be fair if a very large donation (say 90% of the extra profits) was given to the New Village Hall.

Name and address supplied,


Harbour facelift

It’s good to see that all the funding and planning has been given the go- ahead for the new project on the harbour (The Whitehaven News, July 29), but tell me why the piers are a living disgrace.

On my last visit it looked like they had last seen a lick of white paint in the 1970d. I took my wife up the west pier and it was an embarrassment as I had given it big praise of spending 40 years fishing off it.

I emailed the Harbour Commissioners two years ago asking what happened to money given by Granada TV for letting them film Coronation Street scenes there, as there was word that repainting and a replacement of the lighthouse glass were going to be done. I got no answer.

No way is it attractive for any boat, raft or ship to want to enter Whitehaven. Who will give the next bit of false hope?


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