The league of obese gentlemen

DEPUTY prime minister John Prescott probably likes going home to his constituency. When the portly Prezza strolls along the streets of Hull he must feel positively svelte.

DEPUTY prime minister John Prescott probably likes going home to his constituency. When the portly Prezza strolls along the streets of Hull he must feel positively svelte. Back in Westminster he's just a podge.

A firm of data analysts this week published the results of a survey into obesity in Britain.

It's all serious stuff, intended to help target hotspots for diabetes so advice and treatment can be aimed at those who most need it.

What Prescott needs is to get out of his Jags and walk a bit more, and maybe cut down on the beer and fry-ups.

The Experian survey produced two Top 20 lists - one ranking the local authorities where the obesity problem is biggest, and one showing where the fatties are fewest.

Hull came in at No.1 in the blob charts, while Westminster was at No.3 in the thin parade.

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In fact, if you set the whole list alongside one showing the national distribution of wealth, you'd see very little difference.

Most of the fat spots are some of the most deprived areas of the North, with a few run-down towns in south Wales also featuring.

The top five in the thin list are all in the most affluent parts of London. Nearly all the rest are in the capital's better-off commuter belt - with the striking exceptions of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

One obvious conclusion is that health, as ever, has a lot to do with wealth.

The poorer people are, the more poorly they eat - and a poor diet is a major cause of weight problems.

Looking down the chunky list, another striking link emerges.

Blackburn, Burnley, Sunderland, Oldham and Rochdale are all in the Top 20. Now, what else do those towns have in common?

That's it - they are the very places where the Brutish and Nasty Party appear to have made the greatest inroads.

Food for thought that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

***

JUST over 13 years ago around 500,000 people happily thronged the streets of Port-au-Prince to celebrate the landslide election of Haiti's new president.

Some of those happy folk were probably among those killed this week in the crossfire as that same president - a man described at his election as a radical Roman Catholic priest - fled the country.

When Father Jean Bertrand Aristide swept to power at the age of just 37 it looked like a new dawn for a small country with a bleak history. Sadly not.

Aristide might have had 70 per cent of the electorate with him, but not the army. Inheriting a long tradition of rule by thuggery, they were not about to support a government committed to the values of Christian charity.

After three years of exile in the USA, however, Aristide returned - with the good wishes of the US president, backed by 20,000 American troops.

Good news again? Sadly not.

The priest may have promised to feed his flock, but he leaves them as he found them, officially among the very poorest people in the world - the most deprived in the western hemisphere.

The US forces that helped him back to power have now helped depose him. Whether or not you believe his claim that armed American agents personally forced him to leave Haiti, there is no doubt that his departure - like his return in 1994 - came with the ringing endorsement of the White House.

From Bill Clinton's "bonne chance" to George W Bush's talk of democracy and "a new chapter" in Haiti's history.

What Bush overlooked is that however much Aristide failed to deliver his high ideals, he was democratically elected.

The "freedom fighters" whose armed rebellion brought his downfall are led by a former death squad leader and a former police chief implicated in two coup attempts. Poor Haiti.

The US, of course, does not want a failing state lapsing into anarchy and civil war right on its doorstep - especially in an election year. And there is some point in backing a winning side.

But this is hardly the first time we've seen Washington playing Risk, installing a leader in another country, then removing him from the board when the game moves on.

***

NOW we are told that United Nations weapons inspectors believe Iraq had "no significant weapons of mass destruction" after 1994.

Meanwhile the CIA says Israel has between 200 and 400 nuclear weapons, making a country of just six million people the sixth biggest atomic power in the world.

How long, then, before America (atomic power No.1) sends the B52s into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? I think we know the answer to that one, don't we?

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