Nothing wrong with Brown's nanny state

I FEEL rather sorry for Gordon Brown. Ten years waiting for his mate Tony to hand on the job many thought should have been his already.

Aidan Semmens

I FEEL rather sorry for Gordon Brown. Ten years waiting for his mate Tony to hand on the job many thought should have been his already. Then not even ten months to go from Mr Popular to Mr Living-on-Borrowed-Time.

He may be the second-worst leader the Labour Party has ever had but you have to go back nearly 30 years, to Jim Callaghan, to find a better PM. (And we didn't think Uncle Jim was that great back then.)

It's on domestic policies - nuclear energy, the 10p tax-rate fiasco - that Gordon has come so badly unstuck. Yet it could be said that his tax policies as chancellor were the best thing about the Blair government.

On the world stage, where Blair was such a disaster, Brown could be a leader of stature and importance. If only he weren't so hobbled by the perception that he'll be kicked out of power soon anyway.

His comment this week about the appalling waste of food we throw away was right on the button. In fact, it echoed comments I made in this column more than three years ago.

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It has been suggested that as much as a third of the food we buy ends up in the bin. If that's not a modern sin, I don't know what is.

Maybe the behaviour of the big supermarkets who force their suppliers to ditch even greater quantities of perfectly good food because it doesn't look exactly right should be highlighted.

The supermarkets must take a share of the blame, too, for our own shamefully wasteful habits - partly for encouraging the culture of buying more than we need. The whole layout and structure of the stores is designed for that purpose, as are the insidious “three-for-the-price-of-two” and similar offers.

Partly for those “best before” labels that persuade you to chuck out produce that is still as edible as it ever was.

And partly for instilling in so many of us a pattern of shopping before we've worked out what we actually need.

How often have you heard, or thought, the words “Oh, I'll just have some of that too”… ?

If you worked out your family menu before going shopping, then bought fresh only what you need, you might eat better and you'd certainly throw less away.

And your supermarket would be less happy, because they'd be making less extra profit out of your excess. About £8 a week less, if the figures quoted by Gordon are accurate.

I know it works because it's the way I've been living for a few years now. I never set foot in a big supermarket and I almost never throw food away.

I didn't need Gordon to tell me how to plan my lifestyle, but I think he has a perfect right - even a duty - to point out such things.

Some, no doubt, will see it as nanny state behaviour - but then, what is the state for? And where exactly did that horrid phrase “nanny state” come from?

The choice of words tells you something immediately about the class of people who coined it and the mindset it betrays.

I didn't have a nanny. Rebellion against the tyranny of the Mary Poppins crew was never part of my agenda.

In any case, changing your habits to avoid wasting food - and money - is not a nursery thing. It's a grown-up thing, part of taking responsibility for yourself.

And Brown is also prepared to take on the bigger problems in the food crisis debate.

He has admitted that Britain and Europe were too hasty to rush into supporting biofuel production. And he will win no friends in the White House by calling for a re-think.

SMOKING is a bit like eating garlic. If you do it yourself you never notice the way you or other users smell.

Garlic, however, is good for you. Smoking isn't. I think we all know that by now.

The British Medical Association may have a point in calling for curbs on showing smoking in films and on TV. Just.

A whole generation may have been turned on to smoking by the cool way Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall lit up on screen.

But there are few sights on telly more risible than the heavy pixellation blotting out every cigarette, smoke-ring or ashtray in videos shown on the music channels.

And if you want your drama to look realistic, you can't show a world in which no one smokes.

The true-to-life image would be a world full of smokers standing around outside buildings, regardless of the weather.