Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer (or chief inspector of the Nanny State), is going out with a bang. Obesity, a crisis as deadly as climate change and Brexit, must be tackled by a tightening ratchet of controls on what, where and when we can eat. Among other interventions, blokes will be banned from scoffing a half-time pie at football grounds, and buses will be no-go areas for the hungry.
Last week I arrived at Morden underground station to a fug of marijuana. This modern equivalent of the pea-souper pervaded the ticket hall, but the ticket-barrier staff did not seem bothered. The source was not hard to find. At the main entrance, yards from the barriers, a young man with dreadlocks in multi-layered garb stood nonchalantly smoking a fortified roll-up. I went back to the man at the gates to ask why this was being allowed. ‘Because I don’t want to get stabbed’.
I wonder whether Dame Sally has thought through the policing of her ban. Who will be given the perilous task of confiscating burgers and Monster energy drinks on the 94 bus?
Assuming that most law-abiding people don’t want to get into trouble on their way from A to B, let’s consider how Dame Sally’s law will work in practice. Bossyboots argues that surely commuters can go without eating for a short journey. Only water will be permitted (although inevitably water flasks will be sneakily filled with illicit substances such as orange juice). Under the virtuous stewardship of Sadiq Khan, London will be celebrated as the healthiest travel network in the world: fasting, if not very fast.
But a ban isn’t straightforward. Long-distance coach travellers will still be allowed to partake of their Tupperware-packed cheese-and-ham sandwiches, and passengers on inter-city trains will continue to break the journey with a visit to the buffet car, with its ‘selection of hot and cold drinks and tasty snacks’ (whisper it, maybe a glass of wine). Unless train guards are expected to stop all this revelry as soon as the express engine enters Zone 6 (the outer limits of London), passengers will be exempt from Dame Sally’s puritan regime. However, on hurtling through suburban stations, they will see platforms strewn with hastily discarded coffee containers, where the prohibition has brought new meaning to ‘expresso’.
Let’s take a near-future look at Clapham Junction, famed as Britain’s busiest railway station, and a thoroughfare for South West Trains. Signs everywhere remind us not to take food and drink on the trains, unless packed out of sight. So you’d better gulp down your Caffe Nero macchiato. But the rule only applies to suburban lines. If you’d like to hold on that £2.95 beverage, simply take one of the trains coming up from Hampshire or further afield.
Hear the message on the tannoy: –
‘The train arriving at Platform Nine is the O-eight hundred hours service from Alton, terminating at London Waterloo. Would passengers please note that is an eating and drinking route. If you do not wish to share your journey with passengers who are eating and drinking, please board the fasting carriage, coach C.’
And just to prove that Dame Sally has it in for the lower orders of society, you will find no restriction in any first class compartment. It’s one rule for us, and another for the metropolitan elite returning from their Dorset bolt-holes.
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