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Don’t say you weren’t warned. Should you tip the scales above the prescribed norm for your height, more than your waistband could be on the line. You might be out of a job.

This column has watched with dismay as the cold eye of the secular clergy – the British Medical Association, the Health Education Authority, the World Health Organisation, and a nasty little band of assorted hangers-on – swivels from the smokers to the fatties.

The pattern is familiar, we’ve seen it all before. First, the target group is warned that its deviant behaviour is doing it no good. Warnings become threats. Exhortation gives way to intimidation, which in turn yields to persecution. The hounding of the victims is supported by fraudulent science purporting to prove that the heretics who dare defy the clerics are harming not just themselves but all those around them and, in the case of pregnant women, those inside them.

The smokers have endured it all and continue to do so. Huddled outside office doors in pathetic little groups, gathered illicitly in railway compartments like conspirators, banished to blasted patios and crumbling outhouses by dinner party hostesses, they puff away in blithe defiance. As outcasts, the fatties will cut more impressive figures.

For make no mistake: the martyrdom of the roly-polys is nigh. Indeed, the drums have begun to roll. Last week, St John Ambulance ordered 16 of its volunteers to take a diet and fitness course and warned that, should they fail to emerge from the regime in the desired shape and size, they will be booted out.

And so history repeats itself. The fatties of the brigade may be presumed to know that obesity is a modern disease raging through the Western world and harmful to themselves. Yet, stubbornly, they remain fat. Nothing for it then, but to speed through the next stages to the most rewarding of all: persecution. But not, of course, without justification. As yet, passive fatness remains to be discovered. (Do not underestimate the scientists, it will be found.) In the meantime, the hounding of the St John stout parties is explained on another ground, namely that by the very fact of their corpulence they are a danger to the public.

How so?, I hear you ask. Well, it is in the nature of the vocation that, from time to time, volunteer first aiders are required to lift patients, a task which, according to Mr Richard Nicholson, the St John chief executive for Gloucester, the obese cannot safely perform. It has taken a long time for this discovery to be made. One woman who has been in the service for 20 years and is among those ordered to go on a diet says she is the same weight as when she joined. “First aid is not for thin people or fat people,” she says. “Anyone can save a life. I don’t know what’s changed.”

Alas, what have changed are the times. Twenty years ago, obesity was not a disease, let alone a threat to mankind. In those innocent days there were fat people and thin people, and some in between, and they could all be first-aiders. In that lost Eden, just two decades departed, anyone who told a volunteer that he or she was too fat, would, rightly, have been thought an ill-mannered boor.

But today, when the elected Government of the day has the impertinence to lecture those to whom it is answerable on their health, every wowser in the kingdom has free rein further to harry the oppressed. No doubt Mr Nicholson, the Fatfinder General of Gloucester, considers himself a public benefactor and deserving of our thanks.

If so, he is seriously in error. Were I, for example, to be dozing in my favourite seat at Lord’s on some balmy summer’s day and, in my reverie, failed to spot the descent of concussion from a clear blue sky in the shape of a hard red ball, I would not much care whether the hands that lifted me onto the stretcher and bore me to some place of remedial treatment were slim or pudgy. Indeed, there might be something to be said for awakening and seeing, in double vision, the reassuring round countenance(s) of a rescuer. For fat people are so often more joyful, more human, than their lean and meagre brethren.

What is particularly shocking in the hounding of the St John Ambulance crews is that their sole purpose in putting on their uniforms and giving of their time is to help others. A single St John volunteer, no matter what his or her circumference, is worth 10,000 Health Education Authority apparatchiks. That health fascism should choose as its latest victims those whose principal concern is for the wellbeing of their fellows – a concern measured not in pages of bogus scientific research nor in hours of hectoring and bullying, but in care and treatment given freely and selflessly – says as much for its motives as for the quality of its thinking.

Professor Edmund Rolls, an expert in matters nutritional, tells us a good way to lose weight is to chew food and, instead of swallowing, spit it out. When, as surely it must, regurgitation becomes mandatory, I for one know who I am going to do it over.

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