Let them eat chips?

Mr Balls has joined the impressive list of bossy Ministers telling people how to lead their lives. He wants to stop the school lunchtime chip run, and approves of Councils preventing people setting up fast food outlets near a school.

We are told we need eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but not apparently potatoes cooked in one way.

Before fulminating against the ever popular potato chip, did Mr Balls investigate the amount of fat in mashed potato compared to low fat chips? Should he now go on to ban mash as well? Has he examined how much fat there is in a salad covered with dressing? Perhaps all dressed lettuce leaves should also be banned within a quarter mile range of schools? Is he about to ban gravy for containing fat from cooked meat?

Chips are one of life’s simple pleasures. By all means encourage low fat ones, and by all means find other things to add variety to diets. But let’s not ostracise the chip. It will just make it more popular with adolescents who like its flavour, by giving it the added piquancy of adult disapproval.

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  1. Henry Crun
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    In Mr Balls's warped mind there may well be adults hanging around the school gates preying on our youth, tempting them with bags of chips, or chip shop vouchers encouraging them to a life of obesity.

    I despair, I really do.

  2. John
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Of course Ed Balls is correct. All school children should fill in a form for every piece of food that they put in their mouths. Nutritional and calorific values should be ascertained before eating. Infringements of the rules should be punished by a week in the custody of a TV chef.

  3. no one
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    our senior school lunch time diet was

    i) crisp sandwiches


    ii) egg fried rice from takeaway


    iii) chips

    mainly because the school meals were so bad

    never did us any harm (well it probably did but less harm than eating the rubbish the school provided would have done)

  4. Blank Xavier
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    If our innumerable Ministers were not doing something, one might have to ask what they were there for at all…

  5. Andrew Forbes
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Mr Balls looks like he's had the odd bad of chips himself. Perhaps, John, you could let him into your dietary secrets, having maintained your whippet physique through many potentially unhealthy parliamentary years. I see a cookbook and exercise video out in time for Christmas, if you hurry.

  6. Cliff
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Of course, the unforeseen consequence of this proposal is that, any adult living near a school, will also be unable to buy chips locally, which as I understand it, are still a perfectly legal product.

    Nanny Labour will not be happy until we are all fully controlled drones, imagine the future under another Labour government, going into a chip shop, not near a school of course, and asking for fish and chips, the assistant asks for your EUSSR ID card, complete with micro-chip, she puts it into a machine and says,
    "The reader says you purchased chips two days ago and therefore if I served you today you would be over your government approved limit of one portion a fortnight….Your purchase is declined….."

    Good diet and nutrition starts in the home, the problem we have is second and third generation of people that were never taught how to cook……I suggest our Home Secretary would be more useful if she returned to teaching home economics, atleast that would help kids to learn to cook rather than just having a "Ding" dinner from a microwave…..Perhaps she will take up the option when Labour are kicked out at the next election.

    • not an economist
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      "Of course, the unforeseen consequence of this proposal is that, any adult living near a school, will also be unable to buy chips locally, which as I understand it, are still a perfectly legal product."

      What makes you think it would be unforeseen? Such an impact on adults would be seen as a beneficial consequence that the likes of Balls intended. After all, an adult may buy a bag of chips and actually give some to his offspring.

      A few years down the line we would probably see serious proposals to restrict adult access to fast food outlets, this suggestion re schools being cited as a precedent for such a resriction of personal freedom. I can hear the cry now: "Can we really allow such behaviour – which would be cited as self molestation and harm aswell as abuse of children by their parents – in a civilised society in the 21st Century?"

      Object to such proposals and you would most likely be howled down with scare stories about the impact on NHS budgets. That claim – the cost to the NHS – is increasingly used to override any concern for personal freeedom and responsibility. Once the NHS was a service that operated for the benefit of the individual user. It increasingly seems to me that we are here for the convenience of the NHS: to provide funds for its operation as it (effectively) bosses us around over our life styles and personal choices.

      And I really don't think Labour will loose the next election. The opinion polls are very volatile – look by how much the Tory lead has fallen over the last month or so. I think a lot of people have to prepare themselves for a shock as Labour romp home with a decent majority and embark on another 5 years of misrule.

      Life sucks someitimes.

  7. APL
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    JR: "Mr Balls has joined the impressive list of bossy Ministers telling people how to lead their lives."

    Lets not forget this is not an exclusively Labour phenomena, I recall Edwina Currie decimated the poultry industry with her stupid advice not to eat eggs.

    For Mr Balls I have two words, which I expect Mr Redwood will not permit me to use on his blogg, so I will put them in code: **** ***!

  8. Acorn
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink


    The undersigned is hereby authorised to purchase chips; (a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family fragmented into pieces not greater than one square centimetre in area as specified in the CHIP FRAGMENTING (HUMAN CONSUMPTION AT AN ELEVATED TEMPERATURE) DIRECTIVE: EU/BALLS 2008/5ADAY/and fried in a heat transmission fluid extracted from vegetables).







    • Henry Crun
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Acorn, the work of a genius. If you so permit, I would like to reproduce on my blog – with accreditation to your good self.

      It may just spawn a new theme….

      • Acorn
        Posted October 31, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        Feel free to use.

  9. Dennis Johnson
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to shake you from your comfort zone, but before you and your commenters continue your predictable dogmatic sneering, perhaps you could explain how you would combat the problems of child obesity?

    • StevenL
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Make the fat ones run more often.

    • Andrew Forbes
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I think we were mostly harking back to a time when the govt didn't interfere and hardly anyone was fat. So we're working out how to get back to that point.

      None of us particularly like the unimaginative alternative which is to employ another army of civil servants at great cost to us to boss us about, headed, ironically in this instance, by the fattest bloke in cabinet. The only things we can be sure of is that the problem won't get much better, and that council tax will increase to pay for it.

      We note the ruinously expensive trend through the whole of govt, which is to attack every problem by legislation of detailed petty interference in our lives. In Mr Redwood, we feel we have a kindred spirit. In the rest of the Conservative party, we're not so sure.

    • Cliff
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      By allowing children to be children again…..Not wrapping them in cotton wool, allowing them to walk to school, allowing, nay encouraging them to take part in competitive school sports, re-instating school playing fields, teaching them to cook so that in the future they can teach their children the benefits of a healthy diet…..Need I go on?

    • Acorn
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Dennis; yesterday I had my once a fortnight visit to Burger King – I am a big "whopper" fan. A teenager with her mother and possibly her grandmother sat a few tables from me.

      The youngster consumed a burger and a large Coke. She proceeded to consume the remains of her mothers meal and the unfinished Cokes of her mother and grandmother.

      The girl was considerably overweight; was wearing the currently fashionable shorts with heavy denier tights. She had legs that would not be out of place on a Hooker; a Prop or a Lock forward.

      Her condition, I assume, was of no consequence to either her parent or grand-parent as they willingly let her hoover up the remains of their meals. But, she may win prizes for re-cycling food waste.

    • not an economist
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Parental responsibility. How does that sound?

      Too often the cop out is that kids won't eat healthy stuff. And yet I have two children who in the last few years have become increasingly disinclined to eat things like chips. Why? Because his mother has gently and persuasively encouraged him to look at the bad side of such foodstuffs. A quick nod in the direction of their overweight father probably helps aswell!

      Maybe also discouraging video gaming for umpteen hours every day and looking more to sports to filll their time. And kids dont have to have a tv in their bedroom.

      One might also note that achieving a rigid social engineering objective at the expense of personal freedom is not always a good thing.

      I wonder how long it will be before the govt starts to forcibly close down chip shops and such like using anti terrorism powers on the pretext of some spurious argument about the owners terrorising young children into eating their chips and ionjuring their health. Yes I know it sounds stupid but then in Poole not long ago antiterrorism surveilance powers were used to help the LEA spy on parents applyiing for school places in the area. And then there is the recent use of such powers re the Iceland banks. Such happenings would have sounded absurd just 2 or 3 years ago.

      • Henry Crun
        Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        I think the govt. may well be stymied in any attempt to shuit down chip shops. Most are run by "immigrants" and it wouldn't look good for Gordoom's diversity targets in the fast food industry.

        • not an economist
          Posted October 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          Fair enough. But Ball's proposal stops new chip shops starting up. So why cannot that be portrayed as inimical to the interests of immigrants who, on pat trends, have a tendency to move into this industry? And it is not that far a move from saying that new chip shops cannot be opened to saying that current, existing chip shops be closed down. Balls has already ridden roughshod over the market and the notion of private property rights with his suggestion.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I'm wholly certain neither Mr Redwood nor anyone in the conservative party would claim this idea, but I'd make it a tad more financially difficult for benefit recipients to have children. If you care to look at the stats you may discover that the middle classes more or less give their kids the five a day and take them off to football hence obesity really isn't a problem for them, this is a problem of the Jeremy Kyle generation ~ and who funds them?

      • not an economist
        Posted October 31, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        This sounds danegerously like Sir Keith Joseph’s suggestion (back in the early 70’s as I recall) that the reproducive habits of the lower classes should be curtailed. It went down a treat then aswell ….

        Reply: An idea the Conservative party rightly condemnded and did not implement.It is difficult to parody this government, as so many of the stupid things they do do.

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, it was Sir Keith who perhaps injudiciously made similar remarks. It is thought they did for his leadership ambitions. The odd thing is, this is in my view, one of those obvious truths that more or less everyone privately accepts but simply cannot possibly say.

        • not an economist
          Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          Apologies. I didn't mean to imply the conservantive party ever adopted this as policy. I was just noting the similarity between what Sir Keith Joseph was reported as saying and what the poster said. Nothing more.

  10. no one
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    re "how you would combat the problems of child obesity" for a start the state subsidised swimming pools and sports centres should be forced to use timetables which

    i) allowing working folk a chance to them for themselves

    ii) allowing working folk with kids time to take their kids

    sadly many of our state sponsored sports facilities nowadays have timetables firmly aimed at the non working population

    for a second we should bring back cycling proficency tests and encourage cycling to school

    for a third we should teach cookery better in schools

    for a fourth we shouldnt continue to incentivise those least able to bring kids up to have them whilst putting heavy disincentives in the way of those most likely to make good parents from having any, the vast majority of potential decent parents are not having kids, and yet we have wastelands of kids being born to unsuitable parents, there needs to be some fairness brought back

    and fourthly the state should keep its nose out of it in most other regards

  11. adam
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    How those lefties laughed and mocked when i said Labour (EU) would ban fish and chips.
    "Youve been reading the daily mail too much"
    etc etc

    Reasons i predicted EU wouldnt like fish and chips

    1. Killing fish is an evil, nasty Tory act of oppression. Fish have rights!
    Plus some other less important stuff about eco systems and biodiversity make it unsustainable.

    2. It is considered a national dish, so high up on the list of targets

    3. Desire to nanny and control/play god. They plan to ban so many other things: cigarettes, alcohol, eating meat, driving a car.
    No proles eating unapproved products. salt. sugar. cholesterol. FAT. smoking. health. alcohol. cars. Arrrgh.

    Just remember kids, junk food is a junk science.

    Too much McGordon burger is bad for your blood pressure, but dont expect a refund on its multi-billion dollar price tag.

  12. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I think Mr Balls has had his chips. Soon please soon

  13. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Dennis Johnson would tell us why the government should interfere in everyons lives. That is NOT their job. They have a specific remit, Defence of the Realm, Law and Order (thats a laugh for starters), and to permit Her Majesty's subjects to live free of fear. Many people died to obtain the freedom we had and now it is being stolen from us by the politicians, who seem to have forgotten that they serve us, not the other way round.

  14. Monoi
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    "Combat the problems of child obesity?"

    Which problems would that be exactly then? I am a governor at a primary school of well over 400 children. I do not recall seeing any obese kids there. It must be a very exclusive state school.

    Here is a tip: not everything you read in the newspapers is true.

    Here is another tip: politicians rarely tell the truth.

    Maybe one way to "combat" would probably be to let parents be responsible for their kids, and not have some Balls (not exactly the thin type by the way) meddling in.

    Imagine that: actually being responsible for oneself.

  15. backofanenvelope
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Hello Mr Johnson

    The government should advise & inform. Then it should mind its own business!

  16. mikestallard
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile in the real world:
    Round here (the Fens), Lincolnshire never went Comprehensive. this means that poor people can go to the two excellent Grammar Schools at Spalding, Lincs. And they do.
    Meanwhile, here in Wisbech, you have to pay to go to the Grammar. So, if you are rich enough (Recession?) to afford some £10,000 p.a., you get to University. And if not, not.
    Mr Edward Balls has decided to spend our way out of recession by joining the two Spalding Grammar Schools into one which, of course, will be much bigger, have no history (the other two go back to Tudor times), have no traditions and which will be slightly smaller.
    This, he reckons, will benefit the "Comprehensives" in the area.
    And what does he know about education? Isn't he meant to be a genius economist, for heaven's sake?
    As we found out here in Wisbech, it is all too easy to take an excellent school away from the poor. In Peterborough, nearby, the Grammar School is now a Comprehensive of some 3,000 pupils! And, no, it is not going to work, in spite of the shiny panels on the outside.

    • mikestallard
      Posted October 30, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      (On reading this through, I can see it being misconstrued as a comment on the above (true) comment by Monoi. No, I mean the real world outside London.)

  17. DBC Reed
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    It always comes across as somewhat strange that conservatives often complain about the Nanny State (two refs above) when they are the most likely to rely on nannies to bring up their children.
    Candida Jones wrote a a piece in the Guardian G2 about one afternoon of her holiday in Corfu being spoiled by George Osborne turning up in a boat with his family and disturbing the children innocently playing from the jetty.
    What stirred the slumbering class dislike in me,was the description of the nanny bringing up the rear carrying the bulk of the picnic gear. Do you really need a nanny when both parents are around?
    And are n't boarding schools just a way of shuffling out of one's parental responsibilities?
    The Conservative Party had a care once to select and promote grammar school girls and boys to bridge the class divide but the upper class (caste?) seems to be growing more confident in asserting itself now, (which is bound to end in disaster because of the upper class twit factor).

    Reply: there are many Conservatives like me who came from modest beginnings and had no nanny nor expensive school place. There are quite a few in Labour who had these privileges, but we do not criticise them for that.

    • David morris
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Ah the old class argument that worked so well for Labour in Crewe and Nantwich zzzzzzzzzzz

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Well said Mr Redwood, and if I might add to that, my father drove lorries, mum worked in retail, no nannies. so perhaps we can at last do away with the pathetic outdated stereotypes.

      For example, Mr Blair's alma mater, Fetes college, was some way from the dire comprehensive I was forced into.

      • DBC Reed
        Posted October 31, 2008 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        I was trying to make a general,historical point about the regression of the Conservative party into its past of upper-class foolishness. At one time people of modest background like Margaret Thatcher,Edward Heath
        and John Major were rapidly promoted but now the Bullingdon Club is the main source of its leaders, an outfit so oafish that "arch-snob" Evelyn Waugh disapproved of its destructive ,philistine anti-intellectualism.
        I can certainly recognise the strength of feeling in Stuart Fairney's remarks but his Conservative Party is not dominated by people of his class any more.
        There is a point to be made that good politicians transcend their class: Churchill was an ardent land-taxer, probably the best and most eloquent of the small handful that made it into the Commons.
        But it is not appropriate for politicians of this class background (and they are in all the parties though the Tories have the greatest number) to lecture the public about responsibility for their children while themselves sub-contracting this responsibility to nannies and boarding schools.Stuart Fairney is right to complain about his comprehensive school but public schools with their bullying and other emotional distortions are no picnic.
        It is hardly good for the future Chancellor to be dropped on his head
        by Bullingdon Club hearties taking exception to his family's involvement in trade ( insofar as they are capable of any joined-up explanation for their behaviour).

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted November 1, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          I honestly don't obsess about someone's background and I find such views very 1960's labour, almost archaic. It matters not to me if your father was a baron or a bin-man, it is simply a question of how light a hand you propose to govern with.

  18. Keith
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    @Dennis Johnson….two words should suffice…."Talking Balls".

  19. Adrian Peirson
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Those Lardy's in Parliament are the last people who should lecture us on Obesity.

  20. adam
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Do we need more size zero models to encourage our kids not to be fat

  21. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:31 am | Permalink


    I think you should talk about chips more often if you look at the number of replys you have had.

    It just shows how much people dislike this Labour government interfearing in things they should not and at the same time not doing what they should. They should not be telling us what to do but sorting themselves out.

    There have been many good suggestions in the comments of what they should be doing.

    Reply: I will talk about a range of issues. I have written a lot on the financial crisis recently because it is so important, so fast moving, and is not being analysed sensibly by a lot of the traditional media.

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I totaly agree with you.

  22. Derek
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Perhaps suggest the government stipulates that any developer who's bought school playing fields must build, not only some affordable housing, but also a shop selling healthy lunchtime snacks. My guess, would be, a great many government ministers wouldn't be able to spot what's wrong with this idea.

  23. no one
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    re "Reply: there are many Conservatives like me who came from modest beginnings and had no nanny nor expensive school place. There are quite a few in Labour who had these privileges, but we do not criticise them for that."


    but there are no conservative front benchers, i can hardly think of any MPs at all, who have obvious working class or regional accents

    it doesnt give the impression of a meritocracy

    i think this is one of the big presentational issues the conservatives need to think about

    positive discrimination for women is one thing, but to get a better reflection of the country we need a much better balance of folk in other ways

    not that labour is perfect

    one of the reasons the state school system is so bad is that the political leadership often opt out when it comes to their own kids

    not many conservative MPs live across the social divides in the way that some of the rest of us do

    and having been bought many a beer by a conservative MEP on his expense budget i think i have a little visibility of how out of touch they are

    conservatives really do have lots of supporters who are more representative, i only wonder why they are not more visible at the higher levels

    just food for thought

    • mikestallard
      Posted October 31, 2008 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      David Davis, Norman Tebbit, Mr Lamont, John Major. Margaret Thatcher (I admit these are from an earlier generation of Grammar Schools).
      God forbid that anyone should try and be like, say Ruth Kelly with her feeble attempt at talking "working class".
      Or Tony Blair with his carefully dropped "t".
      Or the BBC people who carefully stress the first syllable of every word and deliberately shorten every "a".
      Pseuds corner fools nobody.
      Once you are in the Upper Class of the Politico-Meeja-Sport-Entertinement indoostreh, you are a changed person……..
      They are they there because the do not want to be like everyone else.
      It is an elite.

  24. Monoi
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    @DBC Reed, what exactly is the link between the nanny state and having a nanny?

    It is one of the most moronic comment I have read in a long time.

    And when the 2 parents are working, a nanny is a very practical way to help with children. It certainly does not mean that you give up parental responsibilities, but I guess it is probably a concept which is too complicated for you to understand.

    After all, you believe someone called candida writing in the guardian complaining about Osborne using a jetty for his boat! What is a jetty for, remind me?

  25. Bazman
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Chips and blue pop are part of the diet for the average school child, but who would like to see a fast food joint in every school? Not everyone is able, or wants to influence their child's eating habits. Some just grow up like weeds. Crack with your jellied snakes son?

  26. Marin
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    This policy is utterly insane; it reminds me of Mao's China. When will our home food intake will also be inspected (by hidden cameras dedicated to catch terrorists)? And how will we be penalized when we'll indulge?

    • Bazman
      Posted November 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      This concern for health from a government that introduced 24 hours drinking. vHow hypocritical can they get.

  27. Derek Holmes
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    This concern for health from a government that introduced 24 hours drinking. vHow hypocritical can they get.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 2, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      This policy is utterly insane; it reminds me of Mao’s China. When will our home food/alcohol intake will also be inspected (by hidden cameras dedicated to catch terrorists)? And how will we be penalized when we’ll indulge?

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