Peter Rhodes on rusty Jumbos, boring politics and the campaign to make lardy Britain trim

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Go on, eat me
Go on, eat me

I fell into the trap yesterday of recycling the publicity people's language when I reported that BA was “retiring” its fleet of Jumbo jets. You cannot retire things, only people. What happens to old aircraft is that they are taken to a disused airfield, allowed to rust for a few years and then put in an incinerator. Whereas old people . . . .er, okay, fair point.

The Government, horrified at the Covid-19 deaths among obese people, is launching a campaign to get the nation slim. Good luck with that. The problem is that while politicians and doctors pull in one direction, the massive junk food and advertising industries are pulling the other way. Over the past 30 years these industries have normalised fatness. Some use supersize models to promote everything from make-up to barbecues. Whatever the health experts may say, the billion-dollar message from the food industry is: “Look at these plump, happy, popular people. Wouldn't you like to be like them?” Millions of Brits think it's fine to be fat and have become a size and a shape that would have horrified them only a few years ago.

Can the larding of Britain be reversed? Maybe. For years the high-end fashion industry shamelessly used stick-thin models to promote its clothes. But when the anorexia campaign took off, skeletal, “heroin chic” teenagers were gradually replaced with models of a healthier size and shape. Sometimes, big business can be shamed into changing its ways.

And what better place for the good example to begin than within the NHS? One in four nurses is reckoned to be obese. There is nothing quite so irritating, when your BMI (body-mass index) hits 25, than being told off by a plump angel with a BMI of 30.

Under-30s are reported to be bored by mainstream political parties. How can this be? Do they not relish the fascinating, engrossing, dynamic cut and thrust of Left-v-Right? And then you come across something like this desperate political dispatch: “Labour is expected to issue an apology in court to former members of staff who sued the party for libel over what it said about them when they complained to Panorama about its handling of antisemitism when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.” Does anybody understand this? This sort of blather is not only hideously complicated but spirit-sapping, too. You begin to understand why a new generation might not be exactly enthralled. C'mon, kids, it's called politics. It's really, really exciting. You at the back, try to stay awake.

Claims that plunging birthrates may bring a “jaw-dropping” fall in the world's population brought out the child-free tendency in a Guardian online debate. One woman who has decided against motherhood declared: “I just loathe the thought of having to take care of something and no ability to resell it on eBay.”

In cases like this you often hear the woman's friends whispering: “It's such a shame, she'd make a lovely mum.” But not always . . . .

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