Theresa May’s failure to take effective action on Britain’s obesity crisis is highly significant and, so early in her premiership, an ominous sign. Up to now, the new prime minister has enjoyed a rare luxury at the top of British politics – relative anonymity. She has been home secretary for ever, of course, and from failed immigration crackdowns, to her kitten heels, to her “nasty party” warning to the Tories, has made her mark on the national consciousness. But as leader, we still don’t really know who she is or where she’s going.
She’s had rising support in the opinion polls – she is now more popular in Britain than Boris Johnson – partly because of a vague sense of “fair play” that’s fallen to her, as a quiet remainer, to try to clear up the mess left by the upper-class Brexit Boys. It’s also because her initial mini-speech outside Downing Street about the importance of improving social mobility struck the right chord with many non-partisan, non-Tories.
But you can’t hold that kind of popularity, based on vague sentiment and generalised impression, for very long. Eventually you have to take decisions; and you will be judged on them, not on your decorum or sisterliness.
So why, confronted by her first big choice, has May gone with the lobbyists for big business, rather than the public health lobby?
Is May so frightened of presiding over a major Brexit-induced recession and losing the next election that she is giving business a free ride? If so, given the national mood, she’s making a serious mistake.
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