Albion gets that sinking feeling as its burghers turn to burgers

When obesity finally sinks the nation, future generations will blame the Government, rather than those who gorged themselves on fatty foods

When obesity finally sinks the nation, future generations will blame the Government, rather than those who gorged themselves on fatty foods

So this is how it will all end. Long before the rest of the world is incinerated by an exploding sun, this island of ours will have sunk beneath the waves. Little by little, like a giant ocean liner stricken by a catastrophe, it will slide under the shining water, bearing its silent load of spectral Picts and Scots, Tudors and Plantagenets, Roundheads and Cavaliers, mods and rockers, patricians and plebeians, until all that remains of the great pageant of our past, is, briefly, a gurgle and a bubble.

Meanwhile, on the continental mainland, the French will raise their hands in feigned horror as the tragedy unfolds, their hearts secretly thrilling at the extinction of la perfide Albion, brought low by its own folly and gluttony. If only the English had eaten like the French, they will say between mouthfuls of brioche and asparagus, they would yet be breathing.

Yes, it’s official. And serious. So serious that the news was reported last week, not once but every day. By 2010, a third of Britain’s men will be officially obese; the number of obese girls will overtake (slowly and somewhat out of breath) the number of boys; and 28% of women will be obese.

From then on, it is only a matter of time. We shall get fatter and fatter, rounder and rounder, heavier and heavier, until the thin crust of the British Isles can no longer support the strain placed upon it. According to figures published in the Health Survey for England by the Department of Health, the first fissures are liable to open somewhere in the West Midlands, where 29% of women are already obese. The earth will open up somewhere near Sutton Coldfield and giant plumes of water will spurt high into the sky, being clearly visible as far away as Devizes. All hope will be gone.

When some French historian, like Pliny the Younger recording the destruction of Pompeii, writes his account of the sinking of Britain he will unhesitatingly point an accusing finger at the proven authors of the calamity – the British government of the day.

The historical record will support this analysis. When news of the impending disaster broke last week, experts rushed to keyboard and microphone to denounce the culprit. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “The Government has been announcing for years what needs to be done to fight the nation’s fat but then has done little to achieve it.”

Maura Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation, called for tighter restrictions on food advertising. Michelle Smyth, of Which?, said: “This forecast shows that, more than ever, what we need is clear and honest food labelling.”

Andrew Lansley, shadow health spokesman, stated: “The Government needs to improve its woeful record on the health of the nation.”

As the fat man said after the park bench collapsed beneath him just as he swept the last crumb of a Double Whopper with cheese and extra mayo from his vast lap: “It was the Government what done it.”

You would have to be a very fat hermit, living in an extra large cave somewhere in the Mendips not to have heard that over-eating sugary, fatty convenience and manufactured food makes you put on weight. But even those who had heard, and had eaten on regardless were not to blame. Even as their stomachs welled, their thighs ballooned, and their chins multiplied, they could point a chubby finger at Westminster where the guilty men and women skulked.

Of course, the French historian will note with a sorrowful shake of the head, there were those who argued that no government on earth can stop people putting things into their mouths, not even the most fearful dictatorship with the most ruthless secret police at its command. But they were mistaken. If only food advertising had been banned, if only food labelling had warned of the dangers, if only the Minister for Obesity had been appointed earlier with swingeing powers to clamp down on all that needed clamping down. If only.

Instead, the Government stood idly by and watched the tragedy unfold, like a car crash in slow motion. True, others tried. Voluntary organisations like the League Against Reluctant Dieters (LARD) did their best. Obese people working in offices were made to stand outside in windy, rainswept streets to eat their cream buns. Billy Bunter books were banned and burnt. The discovery of passive obesity briefly raised hopes that fat people might be persecuted into correctness. But nothing could halt the inevitable. Yet not even scientific proof that obesity caused malaria, chickenpox, head lice, fallen arches, and spots before the eyes could stand between the eater and his pudding. We were sunk.

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